Letting Down the Flock. Again.

I wonder some times about the Vatican’s public relations skills. Don’t they have a PR wing? And wouldn’t someone in the PR department say, “Um, guys. I understand that you want to clarify what The Church considers ‘grave crimes’. But if you release this document about new guidelines regarding sex abuse, and you mention in the very same document that the ordination of women is now also a ‘grave crime’, people in the United States (and other Western nations) are going to hit the roof. Because it looks like you are equating the ordination of women with ruining the life of a child, and that’s going to go over like a lead balloon. Feel me?”

The Vatican’s response, that the sexual abuse of minors is a “moral” crime and the ordination of women is a “sacramental” crime, sounds to the laity like mere semantics. Gah! Who the hell is running the marketing department over there?

In all seriousness, I’m pretty much in agreement with the critics that say the new guidelines on sex abuse don’t go quite far enough. I mean, would it be so hard to say, “If you know of sexual abuse of minors, go to your superiors AND to the police. Not only is it a moral crime, but it is a civil and criminal crime [okay, that’s redundant]. It’s your duty to report it.

“And, oh yeah, as to you superiors, if you try to cover it up, and simply remove a priest from his position, you’re going to be in trouble with the law, too. Not just doctrinal law, either. And if you defrock him, and set him loose on an unsuspecting public, there’s going to be Hell to pay. Literally.

“Finally, we’re going to throw the lot of you out on your butts if these grave crimes continue.”

According to the article in the New York Times about the release of the guidelines, “In April, the Vatican for the first time published online guidelines that it said it advised bishops to follow in handling abuse, including reporting all sexual abuse cases to the Vatican and to civil authorities in countries that required mandatory reporting of crimes. [emphasis mine] But those guidelines do not hold the force of law…. The new document did not change that. ‘It’s not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law,’ Monsignor Scicluna said.” Now that sounds suspiciously like, “We don’t have to tell the civil authorities about bad stuff our guys do if we don’t want to.” Which simply smacks of arrogance.

Hey, pride goeth before a fall. So we’ll see where that gets ’em.

(While not entirely in agreement with this dude, I do like the way he lays it out. And, also here.)

Despite the continued conservative bull-headedness of The Vatican, I will still continue to practice my Catholic faith. Not with the blind hope that they will change the law about ordaining women. I don’t go to church because I’m hoping women will be priests some day.

I’ll talk about this more in future posts, but here’s the thing. I am not exaggerating when I tell you:

My faith in God and in Jesus the Son of God, and the power of prayer, saved my life.

So the secular world (or as it keeps being labeled in the media, the “secular West”) and the Vatican can keep squabbling over doctrinal law. My faith isn’t in the Pope. My faith isn’t in the law of man, either, frankly.

I prayed, and God heard me, and answered my prayers. And I can’t turn away from that.

(At the same time, of course, I have to do more. So I’m going to read this book, and maybe get some ideas about how to help those bullheaded conservatives see the light. Thanks to @SecretAgentL for the recommendation.)

Unforgettable (Not so Much)

So I mentioned that my kids’ daycare has cool and fun summer programs for my kids: “school” for Kate, getting the 3s ready for the grueling discipline of pre-school; sprinkler day; and field trips for Flora (miniature golf, bowling, trips to the library).

Now if I could just remember when those things were actually occurring, it would be incredibly helpful to everyone.

I completely spaced on the field trip Flora was supposed to go on yesterday to the Children’s Museum. Fortunately, according to the dayschool’s records, she was paid up, so she got to go. Unfortunately, the car seat that Dan was supposed to bring to the school was in my trunk; I hadn’t packed a disposable lunch (I’m not wholly sure what this was supposed to be anyway); and I don’t know what color shirt Flora was wearing (she was supposed to be color coordinated with the other kids so they could keep the group together).

She went anyway.

For some reason I had it in my head that the field trip was July 25 — which if I had looked at a calendar, I would have realized was a Sunday. So maybe I would have double-checked that. I’m still not sure how the trip got paid for, frankly. Dan probably had my back on that one (thanks, babe).

Today is Sprinkler Day, which my girls love. Love, love, love. Who doesn’t love running through a sprinkler and splashing in a wading pool on a hot summer’s day?

But I didn’t remember yesterday that today was sprinkler day. I failed to lay out their suits, forgot their swim shoes (which are really a pair a flip-flops for Flora and crocs for Kate), and did not pack a bag with towels, plus a change of clothes and shoes.

So, no sprinkler day for my kids today.

I do feel bad about spacing on it. And (despite this post) I’m not beating myself up about it. It just occurs to me that I know, sooner or later, kids realize their parents aren’t perfect and that we make mistakes and forget things, too.

I just didn’t realize that “sooner” for Kate and Flora was going to be “now”.

How do you keep track of your kids’ events? Big wall calendars? Google calendar? Do you have the sufficient brain power to keep this all in your head? Do I need more ginko biloba? This is only just begun, and it’s not looking good for my children. HALP!

A Completely Unsolicited Review: She’s Out of My League

Dan and I watched this at home the other night, and we laughed our asses off.

I picked it primarily because it was filmed in Pittsburgh. I had also read pretty positive reviews of it. I believe one critic billed it as “a love letter to Pittsburgh.”

She’s Out of My League is about four friends who work at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Kirk, played by Jay Baruchel, attracts the attention of a “hard 10” when he saves her from being hassled at airport security, and then finds her iPhone. Neither Kirk, nor his friends and family, can believe it when Molly (Alice Eve) seems to want to date him.

Not only is it a perfectly hilarious movie, it perfectly captures Pittsburgh. For example, the character Stainer (T. J. Miller) has curly blonde hair — only it’s not cool California surfer curly, or hipster NYC curly. I said to Dan, “No one in LA or New York would have hair like that. That is Pittsburgh hair.” So true. Oh, and he’s in a Hall & Oates cover band, a bad one if that’s not redundant.

One of my friends protested that they portrayed Brillobox, a bar in Lawrenceville, as a big nightclub, but my thought was that if that was the harshest criticism he had, then it’s a pretty good movie. Kirk and Molly go to a Pens’ game, enjoy the view from Mt. Washington, dine outdoors in Market Square (can you do that?), and otherwise enjoy Kirk’s hometown (he bills himself as “Pittsburgh born and bred”). Molly, who is, indeed, hot, travels a lot (she’s a party planner who hops to New York City pretty often) and has recently ended a relationship with a guy (Cam, played by Geoff Stults) who’s as pretty as she is.

What I especially liked about the movie was that it wasn’t [just] about boys behaving badly. (I’m looking at you, Judd Apatow.) It captures the adult male camaraderie between four childhood friends without resorting to low-brow bathroom humor (although there is some of that, too), insulting women, or bashing gays. I have enjoyed my share of Apatow movies (hello, 40-Year-Old Virgin), but sometimes the bromance flicks go overboard, especially when it comes to potty humor. Please, I have toddlers at home. I get potty humor with my Saturday coffee.

The movie is extremely funny with sweet touches in the right places. And I don’t recall a film in which Pittsburgh looked prettier.

Meatless Monday: Zucchini Lasagna

I had a surprising amount of child-free time over the weekend, and I spent most of it cooking. And it was enjoyable. Cooking — really creating meals, and not just throwing stuff together — is something I love to do.

As is exploring new recipes.

I put out a plea on Twitter one day for zucchini recipes as I am getting two a week from my CSA. I got several suggestions and links. This one comes courtesy of the incomparable @MrsCrappy and the equally lovely @pgha.

The original recipe:

2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 1/2 pounds zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

I had never seen cottage cheese used in lasagna before, and the measurements seemed a little weird to me (i.e. pounds instead of cups), so I switched some stuff up.

15 oz. container of ricotta cheese
1 cup cooked, chopped spinach [I steamed fresh spinach, but you could probably use a 10 oz. container of frozen spinach, thawed and with the moisture squeezed out]
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
4 or 5 cloves garlic
1 package soy crumbles
1 cup (8 oz.) tomato sauce
Dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil) to taste
1/8 tsp. chili pepper
2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

Combine ricotta cheese, spinach, and half the mozzarella in a bowl. Saute garlic in olive oil and brown soy crumbles. Add tomato sauce and spices to crumbles. Simmer for 5 minutes. [I have to add here: I had some of my homemade marinara sauce on hand for this, and it worked perfectly.]

In a greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, layer half the meat mixture, half the zucchini, all of the spinach-cheese mixture, the rest of the zucchini, the rest of the meat and top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 45 minutes.

Another note: If I new how to use my mandoline, I would have used it to slice the zucchini. Or if Dan had been home I would have asked him to use the mandoline for me. I think it would have made the zucchini slices more uniform. Not that it mattered one whit for the taste, but still. It would have looked pretty.

I put this dish together on Saturday morning, and brought it to a graduation party. We baked it around 4 p.m.

And I gotta tell you: It’s excellent. Everyone raved about it. I’ll be passing this recipe on to a few family members. It’s easy and super tasty.

The recipe I got said it served 6, but that’s crazy talk. Even Mrs. Crappy pointed out it would only serve six if everyone filled their plates with only the lasagna. My dish served at least 12 people, with leftovers for lunch for me for two days. It would make an excellent dinner with crusty bread and a big green salad.

Deep-Feeling Fascination

My favorite part of July 4th was watching my children with sparklers.

The way the glow from the sparklers lit up their faces, which were filled with wonder, made my heart grow.

It revealed how childlike they really were, and how their features were still so young. Kate, especially, was all rounded cheeks and dark lashes. I know how trying 3 is — every single day — but in those moments last Sunday night, I was reminded that she is still closer to baby than kindergartener, at least until the baby-chub does finally melt away for good — as it did with Flora, when she was 4. I count down to Kate’s 4th birthday because I am hoping that the constant challenge that she throws up at me will at least be tempered somehow simply by getting older, but I know too, that those rosy rounded cheeks, so evident when she is sleeping, will slim down. That she will take another step into girl-hood.

The other thing, for me, watching my children’s fascination, is harder to articulate. It wasn’t rediscovering my own child-like wonder. It was a whole new wonder, the wonder of a mother. I was struck anew by the fact that I created (with quite a lot of help, of course) these creatures, these wholly separate beings.

Watching their wonder was witnessing something outside of myself, yet part of myself.

Does that make sense?

It wasn’t the magic of the fireworks that captivated me. It was the miracle of the magic of my children. I want to say “the miracle of life” but I don’t want to sound all new-agey or gooshy.

It was Flora’s immediate embrace of the hissing, sparking stick in her hand. It was Kate dropping her first sparkler in fear before it even got lit. It was Flora writing her name and making shapes in the air with fire. It was Kate running, whooping through the yard, sparkler aloft, as if declaring victory over the night.

It was realizing I had launched these girls into the world, that while I was wholly responsible for them, they would go away from me and discover new and magical things, things at once beautiful and potentially painful. And that I can no more call them back from their discoveries than keep them small, wonder-filled children. And that as scary as that fact is, I am thrilled, simply thrilled, to be held witness.

Random Thoughts: I Got Nothing

I didn’t really mean to leave that post up all week long.

I meant to write something about our lovely weekend in Erie. I was hoping to have some pictures, but my mom hasn’t emailed me any yet. (She got the good ones.)

I am pretty tapped out. Work is incredibly busy. (Which is good.) I am in a quite a bit of physical discomfort, primarily because of my back (which is not good). The house is a wreck; the kids are okay, but it’s hard to parent from a reclining position (especially when one of them wants to jump on me).

It’s 5:15 a.m., and I’ve been up since Kate came into our bed at 4:30. And she peed in it, so really there’s no sense in bothering to go back to sleep.

There’s the whole Anxiety thing. (Thanks, everyone, for the hugs and suggestions.)

I’m going to have breakfast, clean my kitchen table, and go to work.

Blergh.

Anxiety Not At All At Bay Whatsoever

After weeks of struggling, last night, the anxiety got the best of me.

Maybe it was the three-day weekend, the feeling that I had done a lot without getting enough rest, the worry about how my activity is impacting Le Bud (if at all at this point).

I was lying in bed at 10’o clock, worried that I hadn’t felt Le Bud move in a while. Now, at 18 weeks, feeling the baby move is not a given. I had been feeling little random bumps since week 16, but I’m still 2 weeks away from feeling baby move consistently.

I know this; I knew it last night, and I still pretty much freaked myself out.

After 20 minutes of debate with myself, I went down and shared my fears with Dan, and then collapsed in a sobbing heap of helplessness on the couch.

I didn’t want to worry him, but I was driving myself crazy. I couldn’t sleep, and knew I wouldn’t sleep until I got some kind of reassurance.

Dan called the midwife on call, and talked to her when she called back.

I spent the next few hours second-guessing as to whether those random bumps I felt after downing some lemonade and a chocolate chip cookie were movement from Le Bud or wishful thinking or just gas.

And then today, we heard his/her heartbeat, and everything was okay again.

But I can’t do this for the next 20-some weeks.

The ironic thing is that finding time or ways to relieve my anxiety at this point are, in themselves, stressful. Schedule a massage — of course, that’s a great idea. And then I have to find a babysitter, and drive all over creation, and make sure I can actually afford such a thing. Get some talk therapy — again, brilliant and I need it. But then it’s more than an hour away from my desk during the day, or if I find an after 5-p.m. time, then someone has to pick up & take care of my kids in the evening.

Although technically medication is an option, both Dan and I are leery of such a step. I mean, Dan went so far as to say, “I’d rather you had a drink than take anti-anxiety meds.” (I’m not going to drink, either, though.)

Deep breathing and prayer got me to 18 weeks. But I need something else to get me to baby-time.

I wonder how much one of those home doppler heartbeat monitors is going for these days.

Random Thoughts: The Children Are Winning

Sometimes that’s good thing as in:

It stuns me how mature (for a 5-year-old, mind you) Flora can be.

The other day, Flora’s dayschool took the kindergarten-aged children (holy cats, Flora’s going into kindergarten in the fall!) bowling. She scored a strike and two spares, and won two prizes. They were packages of those encapsulated expandable sponge animals, which my girls find endlessly engrossing.

Upon telling me of her victories, and her prizes as we walked out to the car, she turned to her little sister and said, “Here, Kate, you can have one.” And she handed Kate a package. I don’t think she even checked to see if it was the dinosaur or farm animals one.

I think I literally gasped.

Kate gushed, “Oh, sank you, Flora.” They hugged.

Fighting back tears (damn hormones!), I said, “That was really nice, Flora. You’re being a good big sister.”

++

As an aside, I love my dayschool’s summer program. Weather permitting, they have a sprinkler day once a week — which is kind of a PITA for me what with all the finding of bathing suits and towels, and packing up changes of shoes and clothes. But the kids love it. They take the older kids (Flora’s age and up) bowling or miniature golfing one day a week (it’s ain’t free, but it ain’t breaking the bank), and usually they walk to the library one day a week. They are even planning an outing to the Children’s Museum! I guess it makes me happiest because they are the kinds of activities that, were I a SAHM, I would be doing with my kids, too.

++

Sometimes, the winning children come at a cost:

For example, last night, as I huddled in the girls’ room under two blankets. I was on Flora’s bed.

The girls were in our bed with their father.

I had attempted to separate them (the girls, at bedtime) because after half an hour, the shenanigans weren’t calming down. I heard jumping and loud laughing and even a little screaming. It was nearly 10 o’clock. Dan actually wasn’t home yet.

I stomped upstairs, banished Flora to my room, and lay down with Kate. She sobbed about how she wanted “Foe-wa” and her “sissy”. By the time she was finally settling in and falling asleep (gripping my arm so as to keep me by her side), Dan was home. When he came upstairs, I sent him to check on Flora.

Kate didn’t want to sleep with me anymore; she wanted to sleep with Daddy. Daddy and Flora were having a bang-up conversation in the other room.

I had to pee.

I gave up. I was tired; I had a half-day to work in the morning. Lights were on all over the place (night-lights, bathroom lights — my girls are deathly afraid of the dark) —  and I can’t sleep with lights on. I don’t know why I went to Flora’s room instead of the guest room, though. Peevish-ness, probably.

So Kate climbed in bed with her sissy and her dad, and I closed the door to the girls’ room and turned out their nightlight.

This whole bedtime fiasco is really getting to me. It’s getting to Dan to, primarily because as a result of not falling asleep until after 10 p.m., Flora is a BEAR in the morning. She doesn’t want to MOVE. Mornings are largely Dan’s domain, and trying to get a cranky 5yo out the door is stressing him out.

I don’t know what to do, short of moving Flora back into her old room (the current guest room — which, aha, didn’t have sheets on the bed, which is how I ended up in the girls’ room). Which we will need in November for the baby. When I try to separate the girls and go back downstairs, they simply disobey me and don’t stay put. When I try to separate the girls and stay with a sobbing Kate, I don’t get what I need from the evening (whether that’s folding laundry or reading a book).

I can make them go to bed, but I can’t make them go to sleep. It’s starting to really suck.

++

The children will undoubtedly win again at something or another, as we are off to Erie for the weekend, and Nonna and Pap-pap are always happy to indulge them. Happy 4th, everyone!

What I Am: The Hype Edition

I am usually pretty cautious when it comes to certain things in the realm of pop culture (see: Twilight). But I’m willing to give anything a go, especially when it comes to books. Less so with movies, but I watched such a great movie, that I’m offering a wholly unsolicited review this week.

The Blind Side
I stayed up until nearly midnight to watch all of this movie on a recent Saturday night. I’m not slavishly devoted to watching Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films. I tend to like my movies as entertainment, not vehicles that make me think a lot. While I am sure The Hurt Locker is an excellent examination of wartime psychology, it’s not going to be what I want to settle onto my couch to watch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

I had my doubts, too, about The Blind Side. Based on a True Story, rich white folks, poor black boy, high school football, etc., etc.

But I found The Blind Side to be quietly moving, and utterly compelling. Sandra Bullock earned every molecule of gold in that statuette for her portrayal as a woman who reached out to a boy in need. It’s far less about black and white than I expected (although it does touch on racial tensions and class differences), and it was not a huge, moving tear-jerker, which I really appreciated.

The story is rife with quiet moments that are affecting. There are no bombastic moments that ensure You Are Going To Feel Something! It’s touching and funny and sweet. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Bullock) is a no-nonsense suburban mom and wife (with her own design business). Aside from Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, Michael Oher’s tutor, there are no big-name movie stars in the rest of the cast, but everyone is just excellent. And Quinton Aaron is quite a find as Oher — he was such a natural that when the real Michael Oher appeared at the end of the film, I had forgotten that I was watching an actor portray him as a high school student. I was like, “He looks so different!” Der.

Aside from the way Bullock captures Tuohy’s emotional moments (she prefers to walk into another room rather than let people see her get teary-eyed), I loved the college recruitment scenes. Anyone who loves college ball should watch this movie for these alone. S.J. (the son) is going to crack you up.

++

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

I checked this out of the library, started it, and had to take it back. I wasn’t encouraged by my first try. The book opens with the end of a libel trial in Sweden, and it didn’t seem that promising.

But then my mom left me her paperback copy, and I decided to try again.

And once I got past that opening scene, it’s a real page-turner, a locked-room mystery complete with sex, incest, murder, intrigue, and interesting characters (if not straight-forward hero-type protagonists). I was unsure about continuing after a rape scene (not graphically portrayed, but still unpleasant), but I’m glad I stuck it out, not only because of the karma boomerang, but because the suspense and mystery just keep ratcheting up.

I haven’t quite finished the book yet. It’s long and Larsson packs — er, excuse me, packed — a lot into its pages. I’m already looking forward to getting my hands on the other two in the series. Lisbeth Salander is fascinating, and I want to see what she gets up to next.