Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Dice of Doom: Fun with Discipline

As promised, here's the post on the Dice of Doom! To keep your home peaceful, you sometimes have to be a good disciplinarian. Though not technically a Wifey Wednesday post, the tone of your home is determined by you, the heart of the home. Here's a way to keep things lighthearted, even when the kids are coming loose at the seams.

The Dice of Doom

This discipline device adds a bit of fun to the arsenal of Time-outs and revoked privileges and I can take no credit for it. It is a hand-me-down technique. A mother of seven gave it to me when she had four teenagers living at home.

Here's a scenario:
Kid one, overwhelmed with frustration, crosses the line and yells, "Get away from me!"
Kid two ups the anty and retorts, "You're a poophead!"
Every other kid in the house joins in a chorus of, "Oooo!" followed by, "Duh-duh-duhhhhhhhh!" Which is the ceremonial entrance song of the Dice of Doom.
Mom steps in, saying, "Dice of Doom, you two!" The Dice is brought out and rolled with kids begging for Mercy!

Let me explain what it is before I explain why it works so well.

What is it?
It's a box, covered with butcher paper. Written on five of the six sides is a boring housework task. On the sixth side is the word mercy.

Our five boring housework tasks are as follows:
  1. Wipe windowsills
  2. Mop a bathroom floor
  3. Run the duster over everything
  4. Dust baseboards 
  5. Straighten up the family games shelf
My kids are small, so the tasks are small. We only do one room per dice roll. If you have bigger kids, you could adapt accordingly. Don't forget to add "Mercy!" to one of the six sides!

How do you use it?
This is a simple adaptation of a Time Out. Instead of standing in a corner, the child is given a task to accomplish. It is in addition to chores.

The child rolls the dice, you cheer them on, adding the chant, "Mercy! Mercy!" as you deem appropriate. The child accomplishes whatever task is required. At the completion of the task, forgiveness is asked and granted by all parties. If Mercy is rolled, mercy is granted: no task is given and all is forgiven in the moment.

When do you use it?
We use this whenever someone's dignity has been injured. When a child has forgotten to respect the authority of a parent by backtalk or eye-rolling, it is a good time to use it, but it is better used in cases of sibling squabbling. When a child has forgotten to respect the dignity of a sibling by aggravating, squabbling, shoving, name calling, or poking fun, it is mandatory. This entire set up is designed to intervene before fists or tears fly. It's an early intervention.

I don't use it all the time. Maybe once a week or so, if that. Frankly, I forget to use it or I don't have the wits about me to use it when I should. It's in the tool bag when I want to pull it out and it works.

How does it work?
First of all, this is a Time Out. Time Outs work by removing the child from the source of frustration. Second of all it provides for instant distraction and redirection and at the same time that the tasks are just physical enough to blow off a little steam. Thirdly, it completely resets the tone by replacing the "ritual" of an argument with another (slightly sillier) ritual to perform. Finally, justice is instantly and equitably served. Unless there is a clear cut case of pure and unadulterated innocence, all parties involved roll the dice.

Why is it fun?
Because you make it fun. You introduce it with all due pomp and circumstance. You show how each of the tasks will be performed. You model rolling the dice. You also model the begging and bargaining, "Mercy! Please let me get Mercy!" or "Not the mopping! ANYthing but the mopping!" Then model the appropriate reaction. "AAAuggghhh! Mopping!!" or "MERCY! Whew!" And sometimes, rarely, you roll it yourself.

"Whoops! I just blew it when I yelled at you. I'm sorry about that...Dice of Doom for mom!"

While the kids are working, I tend to "supervise." It's funny how when kids' hands are occupied, their mouths are freed. I have gotten to the root of more problems "listening in" on someone working on their Dice of Doom task.

It works for us. Well enough that I had to pass it along.

Over time this will cut down on the squabbling. It will increase the respect for siblings. It will also assist them in learning how to curb those impulses to unkindness that we are all tempted with. When Momma has a better day with the kids, she has more to give at the end of it.


This has been a Wifey Wednesday Post. To have an even more Wifey Wednesday visit Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Because it is Monday

...and we could all use some schooling in the epistolary arts as well as in effective methods to secure an interview while being charmingly damned to Hell.

For the full story click here for: Letters of Note: Damn you all to hell
(HT to Happy Catholic)

Damn you all to hell

In July of this year, in an admirable attempt to secure him as a guest on his Nerdist Podcast, Chris Hardwick sent a beautiful 1934 Smith Corona to noted typewriter collector Tom Hanks and popped the question. Within days, Hanks responded with the charming letter seen below, typed on the Corona.

Unsurprisingly, the anecdote-filled podcast that resulted is wonderful. It can be heard here.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Chris Hardwick; Image: Tom Hanks, via.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Johnny Cakes (Cornmeal Pancakes) A Wheat Free Alternative

These Johnnycakes are so easy to whip up and add to a breakfast or brunch that I have the recipe penciled in at the bottom of my pancake recipe. We have wheat allergies in our family, so we know how handy it is to have good tasting alternatives to certain standards like pancakes or waffles.

This is one of those dishes that you'll likely need to make plenty of. Though technically a side dish or a substitution, it's good enough to be a main player.

Not the best picture, but these are them! You can see the browning
and the indents of my fingers!


1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

I like to mix all the ingredients and soak the batch overnight. The texture is simply better that way, but that step is not required. Just mix it up, shape the batter in your hand (it's akin to making a sand pie on the beach, gritty and damp) and fry it on a hot, greased griddle until firm with some browning. Flip.

We serve ours drizzled with honey.

That is indeed one cool cook!
Meanwhile, this is all I've been up to today, playing in the kitchen with this guy. That's four loaves of oat bread cooling up there. 

P.S. Don't let the little white Kitchen Aid fool you. I used the industrial mixer under the counter and under the pink shroud to get those loaves done. A nice lady retiring from her pizza business let us buy it from her. Don't you just love Craigslist?

Sublime Saturday

A touch of a cold is knocking my socks off, or sneezing them off actually, so I needed a little boost to get through my Saturday. Along comes Tamara, my friend from Facebook and real life. She shared this with me and I am sharing it with you.

I don't think I ever prayed this prayer before. I mean, I've prayed it thousands of times, but never with such longing as this.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace..."

Thanks, Tammy! I needed that.

Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Conversion of Saint Paul and Marching for Life


A few days ago, a stained glass artist named Rachel Curling emailed me and gave permission to use this piece of stained glass beauty in order to help celebrate today's Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.
Stained glass image courtesy of

This piece was created in honor of the event and the feast day. It captures that moment when Paul is confronted with Christ's voice and answers his call to conversion with the words, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do!" He humbly surrenders, as the image denotes. You can see his "Yes!" in his very body. He is completely open to the will of the Christ. That same Christ he had not recognized as his Messiah. The same Christ he was persecuting by attacking His body, the Church. This is a profound moment for Paul, for the Church as well, but let us not forget that Paul's conversion is an important window into our own continual call to conversion and deeper union with Our Lord, too. We need to take it personally!

Like Mary, like you or I, like anyone who has answered that call to conversion, Paul could have refused. Like Paul as Saul, we do Him harm. We may not hold any coats while Christians are killed, but every sin has a painful effect upon our world, ourselves, and our God. Each sin needs repentance, each sinner conversion, with each and every sin.

It is too easy to contemplate a life like his from this end of History. We take such faith as a matter of course. Of course he goes blind and on his way. Of course Paul is Baptized in Damascus by the very people he had planned on persecuting. Of course he writes, speaks, and converts Christians in his time and to this very day. He's Paul. Everybody knows him!

What we tend to forget is that he had no guarantees that those wary Christians would ever trust him. He was Saul, the man who took part in the very first Christian martyrdom. This man helped kill Saint Stephen! Saul's reputation proceeded him whenever he went among Christians. A yes to Christ meant he would be outlawed by his current friends and by all the authorities in power, Jewish and Roman. A yes meant he would have to trust the Christians and be humbled by his past actions. Christ didn't make any guarantees and Paul said yes. As far as he knew, Christ might have had in mind for him a glorious martyrdom in Damascus at the hands of just about anyone.

Yet Paul never hesitates. He gives his fiat as soon as he understands Who is behind the voice. What trust, what surrender that is! Blinded, he journeys to his fate as a new convert to a persecuted faith.

As you look upon this artwork, would it not be a dazzling wonder to ask God for a turning away from your misguided roads, just like His servant Paul. Even the smallest mite of such a moment, even in a more ordinary life, would be miraculous.


Who doesn't know the story of Saint Paul's conversion? It's worth a look, again and again, year after year. Here is one of the readings for today that you could hear if you were blessed enough to attend a Mass.

Acts 22: 3-16
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.

"On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
I replied, 'Who are you, sir?'
And he said to me,
'I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, 'What shall I do, sir?'
The Lord answered me, 'Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.'
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.

"A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.'
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'"


I am going to interview the stained glass artist Rachel Curling on the Podcast next month, so stayed tuned for details!


2013 March for Life is Underway

Image Source: A Slice of Smith Life blog
Out in the cold and damp and marching for Life!


Tracy Smith, blogger at A Slice of Smith Life, was gracious enough to share the above photo from last year's cold and damp March for Life (2013's is cold and snowy). She is a veteran of several Marches and has archived her photos and videos of the last few years. Go take a look and see how exciting the March for Life can be. I've only managed to attend our local events, which are smaller but wonderfully exciting. Just imagine the DC March with a hundred thousand marchers with you! Visit Tracy's blog to catch a glimpse of the awesomeness that is the March for Life!


The Pope Tweeted the Marchers!

Source: Catholic News Agency

.- Pope Benedict has sent a Twitter message expressing his solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people marching in America this week for a culture of life and an end to abortion.

“I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life,” he tweeted Jan. 25.

to continue reading, click here


Today is my Fast Once a Week for Life day. I am so happy to have my fasting day coincide with the March for Life today. My heart and my small sacrifices and prayers go out to all the women who have had an abortion.

Peace to you, sisters.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keeping It Clean Part II: Keep Keeping It Clean and Consequences

Here's the bad news about yesterday's "Keeping It Clean in 4 Easy (Enough) Steps" post: you have to build about 6 weeks of momentum before the temptation to quit stops stopping you. Oh, and here's worse news: any early successes were a big part of my temptations to quit. Success didn't breed success. If you are anything like me, you will love getting the plan together and enjoy the process of putting your aspirations to paper. You might even get a few days into the implementation of the plan, see neatness and order begin to emerge from the clutter, and find that the little bit of success is so inspiring you will think to yourself, "Wow, would you look at that counter! It's CLEAN! Was this a smart thing for me to do, or what?! I'm AWEsome! AAAAAaaaand I'm done. I never ever want to do this again."

Yes, indeed, that little bit of accomplishment satisfied me just enough that I was ready to move on to something else. Human nature. It's just so annoying sometimes.

Fear not, my friends, I am here to tell you that housework is just like dieting. You are going to clean and reclean the same mess you keep making just like you lose and relose those same 10 pounds!

Yuppers, that's how that's probably going to work. This is where that die to self, pick up your cross, and offer it up Catholic pep talk would come in awfully handy, but I just got tired, demotivated, and uninspired remembering that in a few short hours I have to start cleaning again. Again. 365 days each cyclical year (minus Sundays). Ugh.

There's a reason they call it housework and not something fun like...uh...chores...or, um...drudgery...*scowl*...

(You may quit reading now...)

Really, it's like that. You know it is. Do it anyway. Take one for the team. Be a saint. Yadda yadda. Play the tape. When you mess up, start over. Whatever you do to motivate you when you fall down or quit, do that and get the ball rolling again. And again. It's likely going to stop a few (thousand) times before it's really running well.


Ah, you're back. Okay, then, you've rallied and are ready to read on. So, then, right about here, when you've mustered your resolve and thought, "It'll be hard but I can do this!" you are going to remember that you have to keep those kids of yours motivated, too. But, if you think about it, if YOU don't want to do it, how much less are those semi-socialized little people who live in your house going to be motivated to do it? You're going to have to think of a way to keep you all at it until the routine builds up enough momentum that it starts to become a routine. Then you will have to manage to keep your temper, your perspective, and your sense of humor while doing it.

"She wants a clean house, boys! GET HER!"

It's Tougher Than You Think. In Fact, This Is War!
Remember that virtues are habits of doing good. In this case you are working not on your house but on the Cardinal Virtue of Diligence. Satan hates that. He's going to throw everything at you to keep you from making the effort in the first place. You and all your well known flaws are the first thing he will throw at you. Your kids and their quirks that accuse you of your own shortcomings come flying at you next. Then he'll toss in any flaws in your parenting. After that he'll have to get creative enough to give you the flu. Twice. Just brace yourself because...well, it's warfare. Remember that whole spiritual warfare business they scared you with in Sunday School? Deciding to do this type of thing as a service to your God and your family draws attention. It's like getting a promotion in the field of battle.The enemy can see clearly see your shiny new officer insignia and will aim right at them until they become dull and banged up enough to either kill you and your efforts or to stop attracting so much notice. Why bother then? Why tell you right up front that it's too hard? Because this is good, the less you want to do it the better it is for you and your soul if you do it anyway. Satan is going to thwart you in every step of doing this because he knows that once a habit gets to the auto-pilot stage, most of the battle is over.

Now, you know it, too.

It'll get easier. Can you hang onto that? The first six weeks are the hardest. Then the auto-pilot starts kicking in and success will build on success and you'll get to the point where you will get up off your flu-ridden-deathbed for the 45 minutes it takes to do the house. Why? Because it's just easier that way.

Until then, though, let me help you get around some of the pitfalls that are going to be dug for you.

6 weeks. Remember that. Don't forget to pray. Pray before you open your mouth to address any problems. Pray before you start your day or your timer. Pray a lot. You'll need the backup.

Consequences: You have to have them.

Consequences come in two forms: positive and negative.

Like every system in life, the system works but the people won't. Ah, concupiscence! How we loathe, thee. I have to admit, I'm one of the worst offenders around here for daily malingering.

I'm going to quote myself, "The kids have their list and I have mine and nothing...nothing at all...happens until those things are done. No snacks, no toys, no radio, no games, no TV time. Nothing. Nada. Zip." Not only do we not allow for interruptions of any sort during the 45 minutes, one of the consequences of not doing your work is that...nothing...happens. If my preschooler comes up and says, "I'm thirsty!" during our 45 minutes, I say, "You can get a drink when the timer rings." By the same token, if the 45 minutes are over and the jobs haven't been done, when a child asks for juice, I say in the most sympathetic Mom voice I have managed to cultivate in my 9 years of experience, "Oh, sorry! You didn't do your chores today. You have to have water."

By the way, my kids hate when I apologize and nod at them.

Do you get it, though? Nothing happens. Whatever they ask for, whatever you see them doing that is fun or interesting that isn't school related, that's what gets nixed. "Oh, sorry! You didn't finish in time, so no Legos today" or " wearing pink today" or " music during coloring today." You can just fill in that blank as the opportunity arises.

In addition to that technique, you'll need a few back ups. I have a list of privileges that I've got stuck on my bulletin board, so I don't have to think much on my feet. On it is stuff you wouldn't normally consider a privilege but won't kill anyone to do without for a day or so, like...

  • wearing your favorite color
  • using your favorite cup
  • picking your outfit (yes, I make them change clothes)
  • Legos
  • Computer Time
  • TV
  • dessert (some days the only reason we even had a dessert was just so someone could miss out on it: my husband loves those days)
  • Big Kid bedtime

By the way, have some fun generating this list with your husband when the kids are in bed tonight. "Hey, honey? You want to plan some Godzilla Parenting? Mwhahaha!" (That'll teach those kids not to get out of bed and listen in on Mommy and Daddy time ever again, won't it?)

Okay, so you've drunk a glass of wine with your husband and giggled your way through generating a list of 10 or so privileges to hang on the wall. Now you find yourself three days into the routine, eyeball to eyeball with a rebel who has determined to draw the line at socks. He will never, ever, ever pick up a sock and you are a bad person for even daring to utter that s-word in his presence. What do you do? It's simple enough, you just go to the list and jot little Paul Revere's name down next to #1. That becomes a revoked privilege until something improves.

"Well, the sock gambit backfired. How else can I get out of this mess?"

Oh, and no disrespect allowed. At all. Period. Even a disrespectful gleam in the eye needs to be nipped in the bud. Let's take a metaphor from the blog's garden-related title here: Weeds are easy to yank out when they are seedlings, but allow anything to take root and you are going to need gloves and a shovel. Behavior is the same way. So, while you are working on housecleaning, you can work on nipping backtalk in the bud at the same time. (Really, what else is this woman going to add to her endless lists!!!) It's a simple fix. When they make a face at you over their name going on the list, nod and say sympathetically, "Oh, sorry. A bad attitude loses another privilege," while marking their name next to #2. Easy.

Well, except for the whole Biblical "wailing and gnashing of teeth" routine you are going to get while they test the system. You don't have to be Super Mom for this to work. You just have to be a fraction of a second more stubborn than any one of them. You have the advantage there. Your stubborn has 20 years more experience behind their stubborn. Just remember, nod and say, "Oh, sorry," a lot.

They hate that.

Nip It In the Bud: Their Future Co-Workers and Spouses Will Thank You
We are all responsible for learning how to maintain a clean house and we are all responsible for doing our work without adding to any one else's job by being a pain in the bohonkus, so yes, I hold them and myself responsible for not griping. In fact, I have a phrase, "School your face!" that the kids hear or even say to me (no, they can't say it to each other). It means that they and I must wear either a pleasant or a neutral expression during that 45 minute time frame. That may sound silly or even over-the-top outrageous, but we discovered it was necessary when we spent a week or more of chaos and breakdown when the scowls led to complaints, led to squabbles, led to kids hitting and screaming and mom yelling and reprimanding. This system is based on a "nip it in the bud" philosophy. All the jobs are designed to nip clutter in the bud, and all outward displays of inner attitudes are designed to nip conflict in the bud, too. If any one of us isn't happy, there's 23.25 other hours left in the day to show it, discuss it, and deal with it, so just school it!

Where Were We?
We're getting a little long here, so let's review just a bit. Don't nag, don't beg or plead. (In fact, this whole system works better if you maintain a neutral attitude and don't add the incentive of "getting Mommy's goat" to the temptation to misbehave.) If the work isn't done when the timer rings, nothing happens until it gets done. nothing...nothing at all....

The negative consequences grow out of the situation at hand or a name is simply placed next to a lost privilege, like "Favorite Color" (wearing it or using it to color with) or "Computer Time" (sorry you have to use this heavy and voluminous Encyclopedia for that research today) or "Recess Fun" (your recess is going to have to be dusting the coffee table) or "TV" (while we get to watch the video, you have to finish your job. See you when you're done!). Then, if the job doesn't get done by the end of the day, the next day is a "Blackout" and all privileges from the list are revoked. There's no fuss, no muss, and any undo whining or complaining (the early stages of backtalk and rebellion) gets your name placed further down the list.

Your children will pull together to get the job done:
the job of organized rebellion!
We don't add time to our timer when one particular child (or mom) is feeling particularly naughty and wants to test the system (it happens). It goes off and we move on to our very next thing. For our family it's Homeschool Time, and while everyone is getting their pencils, a malingerer's name goes on the privileges list, sometimes pretty far down the list until their job is done. And after that timer goes off, the job has to be done on their free time because work time ran out. It's a simple system. 

Until the job is done...that phrase brings us to the next category of consequences...

Positive Consequences
Repentance, a return to polite cheerfulness, zealously re-attending to duties earns back a privilege. Reward any steps in the right direction! Hug, smile, and brag on any child who repents. Cheerfully and theatrically erase that name from your privileges list. Make it very clear that you've been waiting, practically hovering, ready to pounce on them with praise and restored goodwill. Get just as creative in giving back imaginary privileges as you are in taking them away. Make as big a deal as possible as you pull a 2 liter bottle of generic root beer out of a bag. "You know, guys, I hadn't planned on getting soda when I ran in to Wal-Mart this afternoon, but I remembered how quickly your brother turned his attitude around this morning. It was so impressive that when I passed the soda aisle, I decided we could all use a little treat in his honor."

You get the picture. I'm talking bribery, here. Bribery and emotional blackmail. If you aren't enough of a snot to enjoy out-thinking your kids on occasion, at least you can enjoy the root beer.

Just like negative consequences flow out of the situation, so do positive ones. With our system we have 45 minutes after breakfast to do the chores that in theory can be done in less than half that time. Any leftover time you have left over is yours to do with as you see fit. The reward for doing a job in a timely manner is...time.

Which brings me back to that 6 week learning curve I mentioned in the beginning. After 6 weeks to train, to rebel, to fail and begin again, your new routine is now routine and you will have everyone playing tea party, reading, or creating Lego masterpieces by the end of 20 minutes. Usually.

Six Weeks, You Say?
You can do this. You really can. I know it's possible because it's happening right here, right now in Amarillo, Texas. It's happening because I'm not shooting for perfection in my house, merely improvement. Any progress toward the goal is counted as progress. If you can keep your sense of perspective and keep your sense of humor, it could be just enough to keep the ball rolling. Besides, six weeks from now puts you smack dab in the middle of Lent. You know how much fun Lent can be. Just consider this a head start on the sackcloth and ashes.

Happy Suffering, y'all!


Next week: The Dice of Doom "dun-dun-duuuuuuuuun!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keeping It Clean in 4 Easy (Enough) Steps

Micaela Darr, a fellow blogger over at California to Korea, inspired me to write this post. I happened on her lament "I NEED HELP MANAGING THE CHAOS!!!" while perusing through the 7 Quick Takes over at Jennifer Fulwiler's Conversion Diary last Friday. I started on a comment that grew longer and longer and longer. That comment found its final form here...

I know most people don't consider a clean house a necessity in their marriage. In fact, it is very likely not on anybody's radar when we mentally compile a list of issues contributing to marital stress, but people fight about cleanliness. They really do. I've learned, after years of pretending it wasn't so important, that it was vitally important in my own marriage and family life. After a few years experience, tons of prayer, and flying around with The Fly Lady, I've learned how to manage housework at a level that makes everyone happy, including me.

It hasn't been easy. I prefer a clean house but don't mind clutter. I will gladly scrub the toilet, sweep the floor, and wash the dishes, but as long as the pile of books by the bed is dusted, I'm content. I tend to pile things up instead of put them away. My husband can live with the grime as long as the books are back on the shelf. You get the picture. I tried to convince my husband that mine was the best method and he tried to convince me that his was the best method, sometimes nicely and sometimes not. Enter my son. He has Autism. He came along seven years ago and settled the question firmly and finally: our house shall be clean AND orderly, not either or.

Sensory overload is a moment by moment occurrence for those with Autism

Because of the Autism, neatness is vital to my son's ability to think clearly. His senses do not provide orderly input. His eyes see everything, all at once. His ears do the same. Imagine trying to think while hearing the fly buzzing like a chainsaw on the windowsill, the whine of the transmission of the car passing by, the cat breathing like Darth Vader in the corner, then imagine all this while smelling the perfume in mommy's deodorant and the dog's spit as he licks a paw and this all mixed in with the acrid stench of the soap heating up in the dishwasher as it cycles like thunder through a wash. There is no volume control; his experience of any one of his senses is almost unbearably intense. With visual order, he has more mental energy to spare. He can concentrate on filtering out the barrage of over stimulation from his other senses. Without my diligence in keeping order in my home, my son spends his energy not in play or learning but in keeping his world from spinning out of control.

Since I have scrabbled and clawed my way to a "Clean Enough" house through trial and error, let me spare you some of the effort and frustration I had to experience by sharing what I've learned and where I learned it.

1. Make a List of "Daily Dos"

 The only thing that worked for me was trial and error. For weeks on end I set a timer for an hour and cleaned everything up in the public rooms (the kitchen, living room, and dining room). I wrote down what I did, monitored my son's reaction during the day, and checked in with my husband at night. "How's this level of clean? What do you notice?" I went through the room with him with my list in hand. If he noticed a job was done, I put a check by it and kept it on my Daily Dos. If he didn't notice, I pointed out the job, asking, "Do you care that this was clean?" If the answer was, "No," that job came off the daily list and was added to a Weekly Dos. If the answer was, "No, but thank you!" it stayed on. From this process we created our list of the absolute essential, do-every-day-or-annoy-my-husband chores. It's posted on our bulletin board in pencil in case any adult needs to add to it or erase from it. Like the title Daily Do implies, we do those same little jobs every stinking day.

To give you an idea of where to start making your list, I will share with you my hard-won list and refer you to the Fly Lady Page which was the inspiration for my family's list. She has her own system and lists ready made and I highly recommend reading her philosophy on cleanliness and using her system to get the house out of chaos and into order! We started there a few years ago but had to adapt that method to our family: we needed some jobs done more frequently due to the size and needs of our family.

My Daily Dos

We start with #2 as soon as our main meal (breakfast) is done. Everybody has their list of jobs to do and everyone has 45 minutes to do it in. This list keeps our house in enough order each day that everyone is relatively happy.

1.   Come to breakfast dressed and brushed (hair and teeth)
2.   Dirty dishes to the counter
3.   Wipe table
4.   Sweep under table and wipe any spills (chairs and floor)
5.   Straighten bedrooms (make beds, sweep rooms, put away toys)
6.   Sweep every floor
7.   Vacuum living room rug
8.   Wipe down bathroom
9.   Dust a room (every room gets hit eventually, including bedrooms)
10. Breakfast dishes

Just in case you think I have my act really together,
this is the actual list, torn edges and all.

In addition to this 45 minute mad morning dash, we have two 10 minute straighten ups during the day. The kids put away all their games and toys while I fold laundry or tackle my clutter spots. Anything not picked up in that 10 minutes goes into Mommy's Basket and does not come out again until Sunday or I remember, whichever comes last.

Which brings us to tomorrow's post...

Consequences: Bad and Good.

Stay tuned for that tomorrow. For today, focus on getting your list of Must Dos together before you start thinking of all the problems that get between you and the smoothly running machine you are trying to invent!

2. Divvy It up

Dividing up the chores takes some doing and the divvy list is always flexing for several reasons: kids need to learn how to do all the jobs by the time they are ready to move out on their own and Mommy needs to do every job periodically to ensure that an "adult level of clean" is attained at least weekly. We found in the process that we had to make or buy some child-sized tools (we cut a broom down to a child's shoulder height until a Godmother bought us a real, usable child's sized broom as a gift). We also found that some tools were essential to invest in and some were not worth it. Our house has one carpet in the living room and hardwood or laminate flooring everywhere else, so we invested in brooms and floor dusters and skimped on the vacuum.

Age and Ability Guidelines
A toddler can be given a basket and with some supervision play "Put That Away" games with the toys spread on the living room floor. (Mommy or an older child can be responsible for emptying the toddler basket and putting the toys where they live.) A three year old will be able to clear the table of silverware and unbreakable plates. A four year old can dust anything that is within reach. Five-year-olds can use a dust pan and even stand on a kitchen stool to scrape food scraps off the dishes before someone older loads the dishwasher. A six year old can manage a child sized broom to sweep a room (at least as long as Mommy gets in to sweep the corners out each week). A seven year old can be trusted with a nontoxic cleaner (like vinegar and water) to wipe down counter tops and doorknobs. An eight year old can plug in and run a vacuum. A nine year old can be trusted to feed and water household pets (with supervision) and even to clean up pet related messes indoors and out.

A special note on special needs
My son with Autism has his jobs, though he requires a longer learning curve and more supervision than another child his age might. My 45 minutes of work includes working with him and his jobs. He is no different than my four other children. He will one day need to run his house, too, and every human being thrives with a healthy balance of work and leisure. Please don't forget anyone and their need to work. Work and a sense of purpose is essential to our sense of belonging and well being. Even in the Garden, Adam had his work (Genesis 2). Don't leave anyone out, no matter how much work it costs you to include them!

Get started!
I work with a child who is given a new job to show them how to do it and to put some fun into it. The first time my four year old was assigned to dust my bedroom, she was filled with stories of the objects she was dusting. In particular, my husband has a picture of his deceased sister and I have a picture of my deceased brother on our respective nightstands. As we dusted, she heard about her aunt and uncle in Heaven; she asked questions and was answered. We discovered in doing this that our daughter considered the moment a rite of passage. For the first time ever, she was allowed to touch those and other treasures. The other rooms are "kid proofed" and much less interesting for that reason, but it gives you an idea of the fruits these little labors can produce.

3. Set a Timer for 45 Minutes

The kids have their lists (which are assigned weekly) and I have mine and nothing...nothing at all...happens until those things are done. No snacks, no toys, no radio, no games, no TV time. Nothing. Nada. Zip. At the end of the time our Homeschool Day starts. If a child finishes ahead of time, that child's extra time is "Free Time" to do whatever he or she wants. Most days, after about 6 weeks or so on the learning curve, my children are done before I am and are called from leisure tasks rather than a work task to begin our Homeschool Day.
Remember that the entire list of jobs should take no more than 45 minutes or so for Mommy to do, so none of the individual jobs should take a child that long unless they want it to. A toddler should have one job to do. A three year old one or two. A four and five year old two or three. Nothing in combination should take a child the entire 45 minutes to do once the job is learned and done diligently. In fact, my rule of thumb is no more work than 20 minutes worth for my oldest, who is nine. My list began with what it takes me 45 minutes to do uninterrupted on my own, so in the worst of days, and these will happen on occasion, I banish everyone to their rooms with a book and do the whole list myself. Trust me, that's a treat and a break for everyone, especially Mom!

As I mentioned before, in addition to the 45 minutes in the morning, there are the two 10 minute straighten up sessions that happen each day. Ours are done before dinner and before bedtime. Mommy sets the timer and all is cleaned up or it goes into Mommy's Basket and disappears. Whichever way it happens, the mess is cleaned!

And just in case some of you noticed, I've not mentioned my husband in the chore list. My husband is the kind of person who putters constantly. The trick to get him to function at a reasonable level, is to keep him from working himself until he is worn out. When I do my jobs right, he only does his.

4. Do It Daily

This is the big part of the job, the diligence. We do this every day between breakfast and the start of our school day. The only exception is Sunday, the Lord's Day. I get these jobs done even when I am sick as a dog. Frankly, I don't want to spend my recovery trying to dig out from under the piles of undone work, so it's worth spending a little under a half hour* in the morning exerting myself when I have the flu. I make exceptions for the kids during their illnesses, but since they have to lay in bed while we clean, it is the rare Martin child who wants to be left alone for that length of time unless they are sick enough to need the sleep.

*It takes significantly less time to do this on my sick days because the kids are appealed to cut the shenanigans for the sake of their poor, sick Mother, and I do more and supervise less just to get it over with!

The system isn't perfect, but it works when we work. The house still has a few clutter spots, but I try to ensure those stay out of sight. My messy desk is purposefully located in a cubby with doors I can shut when I walk away. My pile of books by my bed now lives in the bed stand that has a door to shut them behind. Since all the jobs don't take all the time we assign to them, I can tackle problem spots each day until the problem is fixed. I don't try to do everything at once and I don't try to start with a clean slate. We started where we were with the hope and the promise of improvement over time. I can promise you, from experience, that that promise proved out. The cleanliness level has improved and is improving as we go. We're at five children now and the house is kept cleaner now than it was when we had no children. The work got harder and the job bigger, but I got smarter and more diligent.

Virtue is a merely a habit of being good. My virtue has become wrapped up in my habits of serving my family and husband in lieu of myself. Cleaning at a level I do not prefer has been my call and my cross, so for me, cleanliness really is next to Godliness. Sometimes it takes everything I can give and more.

God is where I go to find more.


This has been a Wifey Wednesday Post. To have an even more Wifey Wednesday visit Sheila Wray Gregoire at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Because it is Monday

and we could use more dreams like his

Like I said when I posted this on Facebook, I only catch little side blows of racism. I just have had some looks and comments as I go past with my brood, just enough for my blood to simmer, my sarcasm to unsheath, and an understanding to dawn that I don't have a clue how bad it really can be. I'm very grateful to men and women like Martin Luther King, Jr., so that my family can not only exist, but it can exist in relative peace. Would we Martins be possible in the world my  mother grew up in sixty odd years ago? A world with signs that read, "The sun won't go down on a black man in Acme, Texas"?

I just wonder.
The Martins (with some Godmothers)
at our last trip to the courthouse to adopt more Martins.

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Mappity Maps


I am the co-director of the Youth Group at Saint Martin de Porres Church, a working class mission church.The Youth Group is tiny with an even tinier budget. It's a struggle to find a balance between the desire to be of service, to have some fun, and to accomplish this without spending all our time fundraising. Our answer to the problem is called the Pilgrims of the Holy Family. The closest description I can give is to liken it to Boy Scouts for Catholics, badges and all.

But coed...

...and holy...

You know, with saints...


This month we are working on the Pathfinding Badge: maps and orienteering.  I love maps. I peruse maps. This has given me every excuse to spend entire evenings of precious mommy-of-five free-time pouring over maps and compasses. In fact, an entire Youth Group meeting was spent in our local library. Not only did the Reference Librarian bring us maps and atlases from the Reference Section, she brought them up from the basement archives, too. But to top it off we were allowed to visit the locked research room chock full of historically precious articles: maps among them. We read a bit from Cook's voyages, laughing with the librarian over the ffs for ss and joking with a lisp. We read maps in French, Spanish, and Latin, giggling over inaccuracies and marveling at the amount of human history told in them. We held settlers' trail maps, terrain maps, and settlement maps. We imagined battles, plotted routes, and wondered, all while breathing the rarefied air of the historian: that smell of ancient parchment.

As a special treat, since we were Catholic, we were allowed to open and explore a Bishop's personal papers, in Spanish, from the early 1800s. Particularly touching were the photographs of his mother and father. I can not begin to tell you how amazing an experience we had.


Meanwhile, if I never mentioned that I love maps, you must know it by now. When my husband wants to get me an extra special gift, he does not buy jewelry, he buys maps. He's done it twice now and I am the proud owner of one replicated 19th Century world map and two antique sets of social studies maps from a 1950s classroom. They are more precious to me than gold. I am a Mappy. I admit it. If given a choice between driving to a destination and navigating: I'll take the map!


Which means that, yes, I know how to find you. I have an interior map that activates when I hear a place name. You say, "Phoenix, Arizona" and my interior life resembles one giant four dimensional map (time is a dimension. I factor it in calculating air, car, and covered wagon travel times). Since I've driven there, this interior map actually contains highway numbers, alternate routes, seasonal climate factors, and mountain ranges. This is so innate that I tend to point in the direction you should travel if you want to meet whomever I happen to be discussing, even when they live on another continent.

If we've met and you live someplace I've never been to, I've Googled you. Just for the map, you understand.


If you don't know how to negotiate a map and compass, I found this video to teach the skill to the Youth Group. It's a quick and easy How-To.


In the above video, PackRat brings up declination and promises to explain how to compensate for it in another video. Since he explained compasses and maps so clearly, I sought out his explanation of declination, too. It's just as clear and simple as the first video.

The Magnetic North that attracts the needle of your compass and true North are not the same. It's due to the fascinating fact that our magnetic core shifts around somehow and causes our planet's magnetic field to change by 7 minutes (spatially, not temporally) a year, which is enough that maps have to be constantly updated because of it. You have to do a little math to keep from missing your destination.

Declination becomes important the farther you travel, especially if you are traveling long distances. If you are hiking in an area with 10 degrees of declination, you will be 1,000 feet off course in a single mile. In longer distances, that 10 degrees will matter more and more. Miss a port by 10 degrees after traveling 1,000 miles over the open sea and you could wind up in an entirely different country.

For those of you who like to get your Geek on, you can go to this web page and find out your city's declination.You plug in your U.S. Zip Code or your country and city to find your Latitude and Longitude coordinates, and the page will calculate it for you. You can even track the changes in declination through time. For example the declination of Washington, D.C., is -11.2. It used to be -6.1 in 1913. Back in 1776, the declination was -0.9. I find it fascinating that the world under our feet seems so stable, when in fact, even something as accurate as a compass can steer you wrong.


My confessor, Father Barnabus, is still undergoing treatment and could use your prayers. His spirits are good, but his activities are very limited. He could use the spiritual support. In fact, he'd be the first to remind me to include all priests in this prayer request. Priests need our prayers even when they aren't undergoing chemo.

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes


Woke up Sunday morning to a shuddering, tooth-chattering husband. He'd been recuperating  from a cold and hadn't had a good week, but suddenly he was feverish and very sick. He wanted to wait and see but when he hit the 104 degree mark, I hit the fast forward button, called in a babysitter and took him to the clinic. He's back at work five days later and 8 pounds lighter. He got it from the barnyard. Those of you who work on a farm or are thinking about a hobby farm, never ever skimp on the hand washing and never EVER tromp beyond the doorway with your barn boots. I'm persnickety about such things, he's not been. After this week, though, he's converted. Trust me on this one, you don't want to learn by experience. 


Oh, what a week it has been. Not only was it tough, God hit me with a 2 x 4 to remind me that I must be diligent or my family will suffer. I let my thyroid prescription run out last weekend from carelessness. (You know the kind of carelessness that comes because you feel so much better, you think almighty you doesn't need to rely on that stinky ol' medicine anymore? Yeah, it was that prideful I-know-better kind of carelessness.) God sent me a week where I had to be on top of my game to pull off managing a sick as a dog husband, the first week back to homeschool, and several town runs, all while battling my body. It took an act of will to stay upright in a chair some moments. I wasn't about to let my poor, suffering husband suffer one iota more on account of my shortcomings (at least not this time), so with God's moment by moment help, I managed. And barely! Let that be a lesson to me. People I love need me to function; I'm not going to pull that again.


Speaking of God and goodness. Jennifer Fulwiler from Conversion Diary is home from the hospital and Kelly from The Careless Catholic has had her little Anna. Anna is tiny, precious and here a little early.

Prayers still coming from here in the Panhandle, ladies!


I have managed to bypass the dinosaur of a computer and can publish pictures again, so you'll be seeing more of the Martins...starting now...

I made this pie on Saturday for last Sunday's Epiphany party at my neighbors. I dink with the recipe, using cornstarch (at half the amount of flour called for) and goat milk to keep our various allergies happy. For the lucky ducks who can have the flour, I make a crust, but a crust is not necessary for this baby. I posted the Homesick Texan's pic the other day. Here's the Martin version and a picture of one of my helpers.

Sissy, the helper!
Simon helped, too, but his apron was a pink floral number
and he didn't want to be seen in it for some reason...


In Catholic circles, you are very likely to have heard of Distributism. If you haven't, you have now. It's hard to explain in modern political terms, especially in our 140 characters or less modern thinking, but this comes close. It's the best nutshell I've ever read about this fourth alternative to Socialism, Communism, and Capitalism. I don't know if Distributism can work in our modern and fallen world, but I find it interesting that it does not have the fatal flaw of the other three: the reduction of the human person to a mere economic unit.


The podcast has moved to a new time. It will now be back to it's original 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central time. This puts it after the kids' bedtimes, not during. We have needed to do this!

Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio


Still no word on our foster care license. Our social worker was out on vacation and has piles of paperwork to slog through, ours included. I'm getting to the end of my patience, though. I used it all up on the delays in getting the house renovations in order. It doesn't help that I saw this movie and this headline in the last few days.

Children are waiting...maybe it's you they are waiting for. Consider adoption. Consider foster care.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Order from Chaos: 3 Tips for Keeping January's Resolutions

"Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor.14:40)

God is a God of order. Like cold is what happens when heat is absent, chaos is what happens when God is absent. Without the hand of God, or your hand as His child, all things will revert to their original state: nothingness. The process isn't pretty. The first few stages are mere messiness and disorder. Left alone, these degenerate into chaos. Chaos ultimately ends in obliteration and annihilation.

A wife and mom is in a constant fight with the descent into chaos.

It's the oldest story out there. Creation was orderly and functioned well until we introduced the chaos of sin. After that all Hell broke loose, literally. To make a near eternal story short, if you are battling the Home Depot web page or a counter top that continually fills up with junk mail, half finished scribblings, hair ties, dog collars, dirty coffee mugs, broken crayons, unsharpened pencils, random lists and rubber bands, you can blame Adam and Eve for it.

Thanks guys!

Though, from the looks of my counter top (and no, I will not be showing you a picture of my desk), I'd be the last person to ask about organization, I do have an insight or two into the process. I know how to get organization schemes wrong, I know how to fail, and since that's about it, let me help you avoid some of the pitfalls as you enter into January's Resolution Season.

#1 Let God In
Since God created order and you need Him for that, begin any home improvement project with prayer. Don't try to go at the house on your own steam. Don't even try to go at it with some expert's scheme. None of that is going to work as well as simply starting from the premise that you can't tackle this problem alone. Face it, the Universe is spinning out of control, your counter tops and dusty baseboards are merely evidence of a problem greater than mankind. Entropy is a law you are trying to break! Which leads me to my next point.

#2 You Are Doomed
Not my actual counter...
You are going to fail. You may quit reading now or you may build into your system this humbling realization. Like we continually fall into sin and laziness in our spiritual life and need to be continually repentant and prayerful to battle that tendency, you will continually fall into it in your physical life, too. Whatever your new plans are, a new diet or a vow to keep the gas tank above a quarter tank, you are going to do very well on your new system for a few weeks and then you will slip up. No matter how diligent you think you are, one day in the dim gloom of a drizzly February day, you will look up in surprise to see that counter looking worse than it did when you started. It will hit you that you have failed and you will be tempted to look upon all the effort you put into it to change yourself and your life was a great big honking waste of time! My thinking usually sounds a bit like this, "Almighty Me has put for a bit of effort and now the job should run itself without anything more from Me. It isn't fair!" If that sounds in any way familiar or if that random Internet pic of a messy counter top is yours, swallow your pride, pray, repent, and get back to the job. That's just how that works.

#3 Be Smart and Be Lazy
Be lazy enough to understand that a little effort every day avoids the tremendous effort once a week/month/year. Putting off a job multiplies magnificently (horrifically?) the effort it takes to do the same job. You may think you are being lazy by ignoring a problem spot, but the really lazy person designs her life around the least effort humanly possible. If 10 minutes of cleanup twice a week is all that it takes to keep the counter top clear, but 5 seconds of putting away a piece of mail in the moment is all it takes, be lazy enough to pick the latter. That's just smart.

So, enjoy your New Year. Keep your Resolutions, but do so armed with the understanding that breaking an old habit of disorderliness with a new habit of orderliness is going to take time and a bit of human frailty. Always keep in mind that first thought, that God is a God of order. If you find your February beginning to bloom with the flowers of your old familiar chaos, remember that like cold is the absence of heat, chaos is the absence of God. Laxity in your physical world may be a sign of laxity in the spiritual, so begin weeding it out with prayer and repentance. That could never hurt.

Click Here for an even more Wifey Wednesday

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday Stuff: Nothing Like Chocolate Pie

I make this crustless and I make it with crust. The point is, I make it. Nothing makes everything better quite like chocolate.

Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
from The Homesick Texan


Direct Link to the Homesick Texan Recipe Here 
Filling ingredients:
4 tablespoons of cocoa or 1 1/2 squares of baking chocolate
3/4 cups of sugar
5 tablespoons of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 egg yolks, beaten slightly
1 tablespoon of butter

Meringue ingredients:
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar

Mix your sugar, flour, salt, cocoa, eggs and milk (all except vanilla and butter) with a whisk.
Cook while stirring on medium until it bubbles and thickens, about five to 10 minutes. If it becomes lumpy, just beat out the lumps. (It will not get any thicker in the oven so cook until it's as thick as you want it.)

Remove from heat and stir in your vanilla and butter. Meanwhile, poke holes in your pie crust with a fork and bake it at 350 until it’s brown, about 20 minutes.

Beat your egg whites with salt and when they start to get fluffy add the sugar. Pour the chocolate custard into the baked pie shell and top with the beaten egg whites. Bake it until it the peaks on the meringue are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Grandma says: “It’s real good hot, wonderful cold and you can even eat it frozen—then it’s like a popsicle!”

Note: All that's happening in the oven is the browning of the meringue. So be sure and keep cooking the custard in the pan until it's your desired consistency. 
My version needs a little help(er).
Here's my crust-free version. If you want a crust, read on...
Pie Crust for the Lazy
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup of oil
3 Tbsp cold milk

In the pie pan combine flour and salt. Combine milk with oil and stir into the flour and salt. Smoosh with a fork until well mixed. Shape. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Fill with chocolate pie filling or some lesser good.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes and a Prayer


Isn't it a blessing to be comfortable enough to have the means for all of life's true necessities and yet to be working hard enough to get them that a bag of coffee and a quart of cream makes for a fine, fine Christmas gift? Of course, it's easy to be grateful for a bag of Mystic Monk. Thank you oh so very much, neighbors!


Everyone waiting to see Sissy's gift!

By American standards, we celebrate a small Christmas. We try to keep the focus on our faith and each other and not on an ever growing pile of goods under the tree. For the past few years we have chosen not to go into credit card debt but instead have set a cash budget and have kept to it in spite of all temptation. We actually give the majority of the funding to the children to spend a modest amount on each present they need to buy for each other, my husband and I, grandparents and Godparents. Most of their Christmas gifts and most of the excitement come from what they carefully choose for each other. It's sweet to watch the children hover around the recipient as each gift is opened, to hear them calling out, "That's from me!" and "You got that from her?" We think we're on to something. This year, as every year, was the very best.


A No-Filing Filing System of Monthly Bills
From Echoes of Laughter

We had our first test of our new bill paying system the other day. Our propane company called concerned that we hadn't paid our bill. All it took was a quick look in my notebook to be able to say, "It was mailed a week ago Wednesday." Before they even found their clerical error, I already knew the check had cleared the bank and all was well. It was a nice experience compared to the frantic search through a pile of unfiled paperwork that was my previous system for responding to such phone calls. If you are interested in changing the way you track and file your monthly bills, this is the system we're using. I can recommend it from personal experience. It works!


Enough crowing! How about a nice wife fail to round out the list? Last Sunday, my husband was sick and staying home from church and work. The kids were also sick and were dozing and quiet so while I was getting ready, he and I had the rare opportunity for a real adult conversation. It got pretty deep into the usual topics of the New Year, self-improvement, and I wanted to give him a little boost. Meaning to remind him that nobody is expected to be perfect but to simply persevere I said cheerily, "You know you are going to fail, right?" I meant to go on and explain myself better, but his look prevented much more than some stammering and apologizing. It took me awhile to untangle what I really meant from what I'd said and by the end of it we were laughing at my failure to communicate. He isn't teasing me too hard about it yet, but he has whispered in my ear once or twice as I'm beginning a job, "You know you're going to fail, right?"

I already did, babe. Got that skill down pat.


"Resolving to Sin No More"
Garden of Holiness Podcast for Deeper Truth
Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday's podcast on combating sins with virtues turned out pretty well. My friends over at Deeper Truth are putting it in their "Best Of" list. Since it expands on some of the points I made in Wednesday's post, I thought I'd share it. I had a chance to talk about some of the ways even the practice of Virtues can be twisted around on you if you aren't careful. Speaking from personal experience, of course. *ahem*


No word yet on the foster care paperwork. It's all in and undergoing review. I'm waiting as patiently as I can, figuring our social worker is taking a few days to spend some time with her family.


Speaking of, thank you for your understanding and patience when I took some time off from blogging to be able to relax and enjoy the season with my family. In fact, the entire crew of Martins thanks you and wishes you a very happy New Year.

 --A Prayer--

Two of my blogging friends need prayers. Both are pregnant and both have been hospitalized this week: Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary (an update) and Kelly at The Careless Catholic (an update). Thank you.