Thursday, December 25, 2008

He's Here!

At the start of Advent, I envisioned Perfection:

Evening Scripture readings, a Jesse Tree with homemade ornaments, eggnog and tinsel and wrapping gifts together while Silent Night played softly in the background.

But then life got in the way.

And ideas gave way to reality. To work. To cleaning the kitchen. To Daddy working late. To routines, bedtime and the shuffle of life.

But you know what? …

He came anyway.

He always does.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from a King who chose a barn for his birth.

He Came. He’s Here. And He’s Coming Again.

He Comes to us in our Imperfection. On that day, by the Virgin, in a feed trough of straw.

He Comes to us in our Imperfection. Everyday, by His Spirit, and in the Bread and the Wine.

He Comes to us in our Imperfection breathing life into our barns, our kitchens and our castles, raising the lowly into


* * *

I love this originally Spanish song.

Come Christians Join And Sing

Come, Christians, join to sing
Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King;
Alleluia! Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice,
Before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice.
Alleluia! Amen!

Come, lift your hearts on high,
Alleluia! Amen!
Let praises fill the sky;
Alleluia! Amen!
He is our Guide and Friend;
To us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end.
Alleluia! Amen!

Praise yet our Christ again,
Alleluia! Amen!
Life shall not end the strain;
Alleluia! Amen!
On heaven’s blissful shore,
His goodness we’ll adore,
Singing forevermore,
“Alleluia! Amen!”

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tomorrow is The Eve

Logic is king.

If mother moves all the canes to the top of the tree so they are out of reach, climb it, pull it down and eat the candy cane while its still in its wrapper.

So simple!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to Advent: 5 Days Until The Child

When the prospect of raising a child with problems arrived, I took the hand of Our Lord and knew I would never let go. Ever. I would walk with this Savior until my earthly life was through.

In this sense, my Simeon saves me. I can relate to Our Lady here in that when I gaze down at my baby kicking on the floor all fleshy and pink, I believe I'll see heaven because of him.

Sure, Christ saves me but without my Simeon I would have never kissed His Cross. I would have never pressed my face to its tinder, known its smell and made the wood my own.

Simeon had to go to yet another specialist today, and while this kind of thing typically doesn't get me down, it kind of did today. So I guess he's on my mind.


O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Friday, December 19, 2008

20 Duggars ... Dang!

That's a good kind of "Dang!" as in "Dang, these fries are good!" or "Dang, how 'bout them Sixers?!" or "Dang, it's warm!" said with a smile on a 70 degree, February day.

Cause, as you know, I dig the Duggers and I heartily congratulate them on Baby Number 18. I do, however, have just one suggestion for Jim Bob and Michelle if Our Lord blesses them with a 19th:

How about Roxanna or Marcel or even Aphrodite? Why don't you throw us a Steve or even a nerdy little Francis?

I mean if you're gonna lead such a blessedly fertile life, wouldn't a little beginning consonant variation be a tad more interesting? Or even a bit helpful? Give Mama Duggar a break when she whales the counter with a wooden spoon, searching for one of the 18 "J" names to match the kid who's smacking his brother upside the head with a fishstick ...

But really, if you stumble on this site, oh Duggar Brood, I'd be honored and I heartily congratulate you on Jordyn. She's just beautiful. And with your "openness to life," you put us Roman Catholics to shame.

That being said, I'm not claiming that Roman Catholics, such as myself, are necessarily called to such a radically abundant family life. However, all of us who claim union with Rome, are in fact, obliged to seek out and obey Church teaching. And such teaching has always forbade contraception. Always. Of course there are certain allowances for marital continence (Natural Family Planning), however, "kids are simply a pain" has never been one of them.

Now the above paragraph prickles my skin as I am a convert to the Catholic Faith and the largest obstacle I had when considering the Church was its stance against contraception. I think this was for several reasons, but the biggest one was that I had never been challenged to consider contraception as a moral issue. I was raised mostly in Evangelical Protestant circles where people never even discussed the moral implications of contraception yet took major stances on the following:

1. What One Drank: Or didn't -- and that was beer, wine & of course the harder stuff -- whole long, red-faced sermons on this subject; I mean "church splits" galore.

2. How One Spent: A "tithe" was the rule; even though there is literally one Old Testament verse on the subject having to do with a "storehouse." By the way, what the heck is a "storehouse?"

3. Holidays: Of course Halloween was a hot topic but lots of folk even took issue with Christmas trees ... Christmas trees!

Now, I ask you, isn't it odd that alcohol, money -- even trick or treating and Christmas trees -- are moral issues but contraception -- which leads to the not making of life itself -- is a moot point? [insert here that photo of monkey see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil cause that's the best way to describe how my Baptist college dealt with the issue of birth control in our Faith and Family Seminar -- it was not on the agenda].

My point: For the sake of your own humanity and happiness, consider your sexuality; your ability to procreate; your choice to do so or not to do so in the light of moral reasoning. I have found that in doing so God has blessed me with great mercy, grace ... and more children. I have also found, however, that because of the Church's allowance for Natural Family Planning I do not face a future where my fertility frightens me. Rather, one where I can avoid pregnancies if necessary [This is obviously a complicated moral issue; to read more about it, visit One More Soul at the bottom of the page.]

Certainly, we're not all called to have families the size of Dang! Duggar dimensions. However, if you claim the identity of "Christian" and you realize this identity places certain demands on your wallet (aren't there like a million "Christian" financial seminars?), what you eat (Creation Diet or Weigh Down?), what you listen to (Christian Rock Festival, anyone?), wouldn't it be reasonable that God should care about the area in which you are most like Him -- your ability to make life itself?

At least Jim Bob and Michelle concur with this lonely Catholic. And to them I raise my glass and just one more suggestion for Baby 19. Like I said, the "J" thing must be tiresome ... Not to mention, you're due for a dude so howbout it? ... "Dude Duggar" ... Dang! ... Wait, I like the Dang! too; On second thought, make that Dang! Dude Duggar ... Dang!

# # #

Visit One More Soul to learn about the Catholic Church's stance on contraception, birth control and the blessing of children.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hottest Husband 2009 -- A Moment About Marriage

Now, I'm no one to give advice about marriage but I just have to share something ironic and eye opening that happened this weekend.

I sat up typing Friday night to enter my husband in Redbook's Hottest Husband of 2009 contest (essay and link below). I then went on to have a really rocky, trying weekend with the guy I wrote so glowingly about.

By Sunday night, I was really bummed. I picked up the essay I had written about Pete and realized that the things I had praised him about were all true even during such a difficult weekend. He had just done other things to offend.

Long point short: it was a great lesson in appreciating my husband for what he is. Rather than what he is not.

I also had fun writing the essay and think all of you should enter too as if you win you'll get a 2 week cruise. And even if you don't, your printed out essay taped to the fridge will make your other half stand just a tad taller. Which is always a good thing.

Here's my essay (posted here solely because I just think it's so cute!)

Hottest Husband 2009: Peter Johnson!

My husband, Peter Johnson, is the hottest husband hands down because he’s got the body of Lance Armstrong and the heart of Mother Teresa.

Last year, when Pete was suddenly laid off [I was 6 months pregnant at the time], he rose to the task of opening his own business. As he sat at our kitchen table pouring over bills, our boys, ages 2 and 4 climbed on him like a jungle gym – “Yay, Daddy’s home!” Pete never once raised his voice. Very much like the meaning of his name, he was our “rock” through a tremendously difficult time. His business, by the way, took off – so he’s one heck of a bread-winner as well.

Sounds good right, but a hot body, a tender heart and entrepreneurial success are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gloating about my guy. And while I could never name every last thing Pete does to make my world a more beautiful place – like looking deeply into my eyes or telling me he thinks I’m brilliant or reaching out to grasp my hand as we drift off to sleep – I’ll sum up, and most certainly win this competition, by simply describing my morning routine – I promise you, it’s that good.

I sleep in everyday (okay okay – don’t hate me because that just means 7:15 a.m. at my house – however, it’s a luxurious hour compared to the 5 a.m. start my husband receives with our rooster … I mean our baby. Not only does Pete take the baby every morning to let me sleep … and not only does he have a set of blue eyes that could launch a thousand ships … and not only does he have the bod of an athlete and the heart of a Saint … but here’s the best part … the part that will certainly tip the scales in his favor: My husband is the hottest husband of 2009 Because [insert drum roll] He. Makes Me. Coffee. Every Day. [note to reader: gasp here for breath]. He then brings it to my nightstand, looking oh so fine in his pajamas and morning scruff, gives me a kiss and says, “Morning, Beautiful.”

# # #

Now, do the right thing and enter your Mister!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gaudete Sunday

Traditionally, Catholics save setting up the tree until Christmas day (I've had it explained that early set-up is like opening one's presents early).

Obviously, we cheated. But seeing that our poached sapling, with its hollowed out middle, looks like a Pennsyltucky bear used it all season as floss, perhaps no harm is done.

It's magic, really, that even the scraggliest of Charlie Brown scraggles, once lit up, strung up, plugged in and traipsed about by tots transforms into a
* * *
We sang O Come Divine Messiah today in Mass and I just love its melody:
O come, Divine Messiah,
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

Dear Savior haste!
Come, come to earth.
Dispel the night and show Thy face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, Divine Messiah,
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

O Thou whom nations sighed for,
Whom priest and prophet long foretold,
Wilt break the captive fetters,
Redeem the long lost fold.
Dear Savior haste!
Come, come to earth.
Dispel the night and show Thy face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, Divine Messiah,
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh My Word, My Word. But Upon Starvation, I Will Eat Them.; Advent, Day 8

You should have been there.

All three kids sick at the doctor's office and not a grandma in sight. And, believe me, I coulda used one (ANY ONE -- any old lady with a pulse would have done; even a mean, ugly-looking babushka with a scary mole on her nose would have sufficed; even a screaming, stick-swinging, I'll stick your kid in the corner and make him mop my floors, wicked witch of the west or east would have done just fine. Just fine, I tell you!!

Haven and Gussie were both shrieking, I mean shrieking at the nebulizer mask Haven had to wear in order to curtail his first asthma attack. Gussie was freaked out that our doctor was of Indian descent and kept screaming "brown man; blue buzz cut" (which was funny much much after the fact).

And Simeon. Simeon was actually pretty good just sitting with a smile in his car seat. I was just scared at what he could do any given moment.

It was a blur. We left with 5 prescriptions, a nebulizer machine and a hankering for a big, fat nap (a tankard of ale would have fit the bill as well but I had to wait for that).

So here's the best part. As I was waiting to check out of the pharmacy that sits across the hall from the pediatricians office, a fresh chick of a mom observed me with awe. The sweetheart had a watched me nurse my babe while my older boys sat drinking their well deserved sodas. I was laughing and actually enjoying myself as Haven and Gussie raised their bottles toast after toast.

"What's her name," I nodded to the bundle whose car seat sunshade matched her bonnet that matched her blanket that matched her booties that matched her mom's diaper bag ... a world of pink.

We got talking then we were quiet. As I zipped up the last coat and placed the last toppled bottle of NyQuil back on the shelf, I turned to her and said with a wave over my brood:

"You know, as crazy as this looks, where you are is so much harder."

Her eyes filled with tears.

In a breath, I told her how hard it was for me to bring home my first baby. I told her it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I also told her that it gets so much easier and that I could tell she was doing a really good job.

And as my hand let go of her shoulder, we smiled at one another. And oh, that was the best part.

That and the very large glass of wine I had with dinner.

# # #

Postscript: You won't even believe what came in the mail on the very day of the above described events. A while back I took a blog post about how God uses my kids' ailments to grow me, turned it into a bit of an article and sent it to One More Soul. Well, they put it into their Christmas Newsletter and it arrived in my mailbox on that very day. I've pasted it below [but if you want to order your own copy to hang on your fridge, I've provided the link at the bottom of the page].
I very lovingly dedicate this essay to all of my dear friends and family who stood by us during the difficult times I describe. I also dedicate it to my precious friend Cherie who, with God's grace, has slayed similar dragons for her babies in the past year. Cherie, you are strong and you inspire me.
I'll admit I feel a little odd here about self-promoting as I really did a kick out of OMS including my piece. But the fact is I've never had a problem tooting my own horn ("HONK!!!!!"). Also, I know a few of you would be interested and I'll never get around to sending out copies. So enjoy!

Embrace the Baby:

A Boy or A Girl -- Sick or Well –
Not “Just as Long as it’s Healthy
by Sarah Johnson

When I was expecting all three of my children, kind strangers would take notice of my round belly and ask: “Are you having a boy or a girl?”

To which I’d reply, “I don’t know. I like to be surprised.”

The kind stranger would inevitably reply, “Well, just as long as it’s healthy.”

I’d smile but inside I’d pause -- as if “health” were some prerequisite for this little life fluttering inside me to be a good or acceptable baby. Of course, I realize this statement is given in good will, almost as a modern day blessing. However, after giving birth to two significantly challenged -- unhealthy children, “Just as long as it’s healthy” is a statement to which I now reply, “Healthy or not – I’ll take this baby just the way he or she is … I just can’t wait to have my baby.”

And I did. In August 2004, I gave birth to my first son Haven without complication. He was robust and strong. He introduced me to the remarkable world of motherhood and as a new Catholic I was excited to see when God would bring along a brother or a sister.

We didn’t have to wait long. About two years from Haven’s arrival, in July of 2006, Augustine Ambrose joined our family. “Gussie” was born healthy but shortly after birth, for no known reason, he “crashed” into a state of “Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension” (essentially, high blood pressure that can be fatal in an infant).

Gussie was given a 50% chance of survival and received an emergency Baptism at bedside. He was then taken via helicopter to a top level NICU and spent his first 11 days on ECMO (The Heart Bypass Machine). Gussie battled a range of problems for the following month in the hospital -- from a brain bleed to a collapsed lung to a loss of his suck reflex. But through the prayers of many and the work of world-class physicians, Gussie made a miraculous recovery.

We brought Gussie home a month later -- ashy, gray and small. He had a feeding tube and was in no way a picture of health. But he was mine and I wanted him fiercely. After almost having his little life snatched away, I’d reflect on the comment so many made when I carried him: “As long as he’s healthy” – Or not, I’d think … I just want him the way he is. I just want this baby.

At that point, we were warned Gussie may have hearing loss and be delayed mentally and/or physically from all he’d been through as a newborn. Two years later, I’m thrilled to report he has had no such trouble. A fireball by nature, he catapults over developmental milestones as if they are skipping stones – why crawl when you can run? I wish I could say the same for his new little brother Simeon, born March 2008, but I cannot.

Simeon was born on Holy Saturday with a rare genetic disorder called Noonan’s Syndrome, a condition causing certain physical and mental challenges such as heart defects, short stature, hearing and vision loss and slight mental retardation. Like Gussie, we had no real warning that Simeon would have problems. My pregnancy had been smooth. The ultrasounds revealed a possible clubfoot but nothing else.

So we were surprised when Simeon was born with what doctors described as indicators of a genetic syndrome: low-set ears, a heart defect, webbed toes, and a short neck. Genetic testing later confirmed the diagnosis of Noonan’s Syndrome but no other treatments have been required for Simeon at this time as he is for all intents and purposes “healthy.”

“Healthy” -- what does “healthy” mean anyway?

According to Merriam Webster’s short definition, “healthy implies full strength and vigor as well as freedom from signs of disease.” Aren’t children by nature, lacking in “strength and vigor” simply by the fact they are dependent creatures, looking to others for succor? As far as “freedom from signs of disease,” show me a toddler who makes it a winter without a runny nose and then show me his mother because I’m going to spy on her until I learn her secrets … Because where I come from, sickness is just a normal part of childhood.

From colic to teething to ear infections to spontaneous puking (and toddlers have no concept of aiming into a bucket) – “health” is as elusive in childhood as it is in the rest of life. “Elusive” because, while we should rightly take measures to look and feel our best, health will eventually elude us all – we’re all going to die. And yet in this common statement: “Just as long as it’s healthy,” we place a lofty requirement (often unknowingly) – health -- on a tiny baby who has yet to be born.

Am I claiming that health is a requirement in our day and age for a baby to be wanted and acceptable? Unfortunately, according to our country’s abortion statistics: 6% of pregnancies are terminated due to pre-determined birth defects, it must have something to do with it. [FYI: The other 94% of abortions occur for the following reasons -- 1% for rape or incest and 93% for social reasons, i.e. the child is inconvenient or simply not wanted]. (Statistics: The Alan Guttmacher Institute Online Study, July 2008:

As Catholics we are called to cherish and fight for life – all lives from conception to natural death as the most sacred gift of all. King David describes God’s handiwork in Psalm 139 RSVCE: “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.” And the late Pope John Paul II challenged Christians to promote “a culture of life.” In his Ad limina address to US Bishops in October 1998, he said: “Society must learn to embrace once more the great gift of life, to cherish it, to protect it, and to defend it against the culture of death.” Pope John Paul II went on to explain that the cultures of life and death begin in the heart of man but are lived out in our words and actions.

Nothing could sum up where we are as a society on the spectrum between the “culture of life” and “the culture of death” as our completely acceptable, common day anecdotes. Not only the “As long as it’s healthy” chime but how about the common lamentation: “Two kids and I’m DONE!!” [“DONE,” said with the same fervor one would use to say “I’m DONE scrubbing the toilet” or “I’m DONE with my alcohol addiction” or “I’m DONE receiving Chinese water torture.”]

And while I enjoy finding humor in society’s ironies, I don’t mean to make light of our dire state. Unless Catholics take their work seriously to build a culture of life, we will succumb to a culture of death that is pervasive yet discreet – found in sometimes the most simple of action, word, deed … and anecdote: “Just as long as it’s healthy … ”

So how do we build this “culture of life?”

We can mimic St. Therese of Liseux, “the little flower” and begin in small ways. Holding a door. Extending a greeting. Dropping off a meal. So often, being “salty” -- “You are the salt of the earth” (St. Matthew 5:13) -- is as simple as “Being ready to give a defense for the hope within you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

For me, a small way I have chosen to build this culture of life is to be armed with the proper response when my belly is blooming and the neighbor’s nod, “Just as long as it’s healthy …” I’ll always reply, “Healthy or not – I’ll take who I’m given. A boy or a girl, sick or well; I just can’t wait to have this new baby in my arms.”

Today, Haven, Gussie and Simeon thrive -- and tumble about like a litter of puppies. As I said earlier, Gussie made a complete recovery. Simeon, on the other hand, like most babies with a genetic syndrome, is a bit of a question mark. Only time will tell to what degree his condition will affect his life. One thing I do know, however, is that nothing has taught me to pray or open my heart to the richness of God’s grace like having sick children. Because of the trials they bring, I lean on the Lord and come through the ordeal stronger than when I began. For this reason, I have learned more and more to embrace the suffering, to embrace the trial, and best of all -- to embrace the baby: boy or girl – sick or well.

Haven James, age 4
Augustine Ambrose “Gussie”, age 2
Simeon Shepherd, age 4 months

Sarah lives in Pennsylvania with her family and can be emailed at


To visit One More Soul or order their newsletter, click here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Frosty Wind Made Moan; Day 6 of Advent

I had the song In the Bleak Midwinter stuck in my head all day yesterday. I was still singing it this morning so I decided to look it up over a cup of coffee.

I was struck to note that the author, Christina Georgina Rossetti, wrote the lyrics in response to a magazine's call for Christmas poems. She was in her forties. I was also struck by the fact that December 5th, yesterday, was Rosetti's birthday.

Spooky, huh? Or maybe not. Perhaps Christina is just one of the many uncanonized Saints in heaven praying for me. Perhaps she was singing me her hymn yesterday as she saw me struggling to be patient with my tots, remembering the winter days she spent inside with hers. I'd like to think Christina was singing to me yesterday because she sure sounded sweet.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a Shepherd, I would bring a lamb

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We Are an Advent People, Day 4

My prayer book had the following words this morning:

We are an Advent people. We live not satisfied but plagued with thirst for the coming of the Lord. Our tragedy is that we often do not recognize the source of our restlessness but seek to satisfy it with all sorts of things that anaesthetise our longings but do not fulfill them. One of the gifts of Advent is to stir in us the recognition that what we truly yearn for is not some passing palliative but the One who has come and will come again, day by day and at the end of time, to those who seek him.

-- The Magnificat

Psalm 63

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.

For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Olde Time Christmas, Day 2 of Advent

A few of you know that I have been writing for a local circular, Blue Mountain Moments. Here's my latest story: Olde Time Christmas (note: pdf takes a moment to load; if you have to scroll, I'm on page 8).


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The First Sunday of Advent

The manger is empty,

But my heart is full

Of sin and sorrow and all my own ways

that gather like dust on freshly wiped tables.

And although my view is low of what I can accomplish,

I'd like to smack a few pillows this Season -- you know, open the windows for fresh air.

I think I'll take out the trash in the evening and linger while the sun sets.

Oh, and I can't forget to bring in fresh hay.

I can't forget the hay.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Words: Charles Wesley

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Fable Called Fish

At the very bottom of the deep, dark Adriatic Sea lived a lonely fish who dreamt of warmer waters.

Fish was mad, sad and miserable and cold. Fish had no friends. Fish had no fun. Fish frowned and fretted and fiddled his fins all day long in the bleakly frozen, black and blue ocean.

So you could imagine Fish’s delight when during his afternoon swim, his fin caught the net of a steamer heading south. Fish held on tight and rode the long way to a Caribbean Bay where the sun shone above him. He found a ship at the bottom of the sea and made his home there.

Fish was warm. Fish was well. Fish finally had all he wanted.

This is why Fish gasped a big gulp of ocean when he caught his fretting frown in the reflection of a spoon.

Because Fish was warm. Fish was well. Fish finally had all he wanted.

Or did he?

Fish swam back to that spoon, stared long and hard and decided that warm was not what soothed him. Yes, tepid waters would be best. A bit cooler than these but not quite as icy -- like a birdbath or a puddle or a crick in the Carolinas.

So Fish caught a freighter north. But the northern sea was as the pea was to the princess in that tale named so accordingly. And rather than sit tight or, better put, swim tight, Fish moved on. And on and on from sea to sea till there were no more oceans left to try.

And Fish found himself back at the bottom of the deep, dark Adriatic Ocean, dreaming of warmer waters.

Happiness begins within and must not hinge on externals. Find contentment even in cold waters (or small, cold towns in coal country, PA).
Note: The above is an entry to this contest. What fun!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Conclusion of the Matter

I am just so funny because every time I use my potty or take one of my children to use the potty (I am there quite often as you can imagine), I laugh and laugh and laugh.

But you would laugh too if your last name was permanently inscribed on your potty with a black Sharpie.

If you're just tuning in, I'm horribly sorry. The potty competition is definitely the low point of my blogging life. That or the advertisement for Mormon companionship; you decide.

So here's the background:

1. I put up a post offering a million bucks for the best toilet seat design suggestion.

2. My brilliant nieces WON and I decorated accordingly.

3. Their artwork was ruined by a good round of comet with bleach.

Or rather, most of their artwork was ruined; all except the parts done with my trusty Sharpie.

So here's the funnier part. The other night when Pete and I were brushing our teeth he just started dying laughing over our stupid looking toilet. He was laughing in a way that made me think of my father-in-law. I started thinking about the way my father-in-law would laugh if he saw my toilet. It would be quite the same way Pete was laughing at just that moment.

And here's the idea: I label people's toilets with THEIR LAST NAMES!!! Starting with my father- in-law's. With a SHARPIE!!! How awesome is that!!! To go to someone's house. Use their potty. Write THEIR last name ON THEIR POTTY SEAT IN PERMANENT BLACK MARKER!!!!

Imagine the reaction!

and HIBBS!

You've been warned. The whole lot of you.

But I won't really do it, of course. But isn't the idea just great!? Maybe not me doing it at your house but how about at least at your mother-in-laws? Hilarious!

Oh well, Adios pottios!

P.S. Note that only the title for The Whole Duty of Children survived the scrubbing, which makes it look like going to the bathroom is what I consider The Whole Duty of Children.

Now, you know the background for my strange potty but if you didn't; if you were just some social worker stopping by to check on my socially maladjusted home schooled children, wouldn't you have me committed? I'm serious, you probably would. Oh well, like I said already, adios pottios!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When I am an Old Lady

When I am an old lady

I will live by the sea

in a condo

with a perfectly clean, white couch.

I'll have a bell man named Lars, and my drawers will be organized. My basement too.

All day, I'll sit on my white couch and read.

My walls will be white.

My windows, clean.

Martha Stewart will visit to drink tea with me out of small, China teacups.

But I won't let her talk.

We'll just stare out at the sea.

At the sailboats going by with my sons on board.


"Hi, Mom! We love you and we're perfect and handsome and saintly and successful."

I'll have Martha bring them sandwiches on a tray. But I won't let them in.

Cause this condo is mine.

The white couch is mine too.

So clean and quiet like fresh, starched sheets. So clean and quiet like the breeze kicking up my curtains. So clean and quiet like my bright, white couch where I'll sit and read.

When I am an old lady.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


At long last, the votes have been tallied and the winner for the BEST TOILET SEAT DESIGN SUGGESTION competition has been confirmed unanimously as ... drum roll ... three sisters from upstate New York ... drum roll ... three sisters who also happen to be my most amazingly creative nieces ... drum roll ... three sisters who should start looking in their mailbox TODAY for the above brown paper bag, wrapped prize ... three sisters named:

MILLIE, ANNIKA and SUSANNA!!!! (Piper is also one of my most favorite nieces but she didn't have ideas to offer for the potty; perhaps you could share the prize with her anyway once it arrives)

Congratulations nieces and thank you so much for making my potty the very best seat in the house.

I couldn't decide upon just one of your suggestions so I used all three. Your mommy wrote:

Annika says, "I know! I know! She can write this poem on it [she recites poem-- see below] and draw a Pumpkin Elephant on it, too."The Whole Duty of Children by Robert Louis Stevenson

A child should always say what's true,

And speak when he is spoken to,

And behave mannerly at table,

At least as far as he is able.

Mildred says, "I think that she should paint a horse and a rider and paint grass that has a little frost on it and a blue sky. Tell her that she can make the rider a cowboy-- for Haven-- because of COURSE he wouldn't like a girl rider in the bathroom. She can also write "Johnson" on it so that people know its her toilet and they don't try to take it."

Me: Susannah, what should Aunt Sarah put on her potty?

Susannah: "Uh. Um. Uh. Um. Um. Um...Adios. Um.... Potty-os."

NO FOOLIN'! There's a Latin American woman at our church who loves little Susanita, so Susannah knows the word "adios." She came up with "potty-os" because she's a weirdo.

Thank you, Nieces! Look for your package. It just might arrive today.

PS: Abby, don't read the girls the following thought ... Do you know how weird it is going to be to puke into this toilet the next time I'm pregnant (Lord willing); not to be completely gross but I'm so already there. It's gonna be like this: I lean over to toss my cookies and either think: "What a stupid looking toilet; what was I thinking?" or "What a stupid looking toilet; har-dee-har-har" or "What a stupid looking toilet; what was I thinking and har-dee-har-har ..."

Let's hope it's at least the last option as the markers were permanent. Oh yeah, and thanks to everyone else who sent in suggestions; you're all welcome to use the prize-winning potty the next time you visit!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Long Loneliness

[note: below is a "I had a bad day" tirade that I only decided to publish so that if any other mother had the same kind of day I had today she wouldn't feel alone. They happen to the best of us. Also, the above quote from Dorothy Day is referring to the abuse of the worker in the factory -- not motherhood; I know it does not best illustrate my post but it is angst ridden and so am I tonight; I also just really like Dorothy Day and wanted an excuse to drop her name.]

So it's only the beginning of November and I already have the winter blues.

I typically try to be an optimistic person but even I get down on days like this. Rainy. Boring & Busy. Busy & Boring (only a mother will understand how it is possible to be both busy and bored at the same time). Out of ideas by 4 pm. Not a McDonald's Playland in sight.

So what is a lonely mother to do besides dream of warmer climates. Warmer climates where people live in huts on the beach and watch their kids play in the sand. Not like here where people stopped having kids in 1955.

I don't know. I love my kids but so much of modern motherhood really bites. I should just stop writing now before I send everyone outside for a cigarette but I guess I've just had one of those days.

I'd like to think motherhood wasn't always so lonely and isolating. I'd like to think that in the past streets like mine were bustling with toddlers rather than old men sitting on their couches collecting disability.

That's not the case today. So what do I do ...

Today it was hide and go seek and competitions for who's the highest jumper on my bed and singing Home on the Range in the cowboy room until the cows come home or at least until daddy comes home from his 12 hour work day.

I don't know. I've heard of buying karaoke machines and singing to pass the winter months. I just don't know.

I just don't know. Travelling has become so difficult with 3 small kids that I feel stuck. Last winter a jaunt to the Dollar Store was a good blah day outing but now such a feat can be disasterous -- or at least more trouble than it's worth.

So what do I do? I was thinking today about Dorothy Day's biography The Long Loneliness where she explained the title of her book. It was something about how her soul would be lonely until it was united with God in heaven. I asked her to pray for me.

I remember thinking that I should let the pain of these kind of days push me toward God rather than away from him. I think today it pushed me away. So I guess I'll try the better approach tomorrow. But hopefully it won't rain and we'll be able to go to the park.

Friday, October 31, 2008

It is Good and True

"They have three babies, " she said, "give them the goldfish crackers."

The old lady smacked the teenager's hand away from the gloriously large bowl of peanut butter cups in favor of the stupid, small orange crackers we eat almost every day.

I gasped.

But of course the candy is not supposed to be for me. Of course. But why not? After countless hours of collective childbirth & rearing, shouldn't I be able to shamelessly revel in raiding my kids' Halloween candy? I think so. Actually, I think it's only right.

I have a girlfriend who actually gets angry at her husband for swiping at the mini Milky Ways. But she's a good person who teaches Sunday School so maybe she's right and I'm wrong. It is possible.

In the meantime, I'm going hog wild on Tootsie rolls and Butterfingers. Some lady even gave out the big ones this year. No apples. No pennies. No Chick tracts. It was a good year.

Except for the part when Daddy didn't like Haven's homemade monster mask and dressed him as a pirate. There was drama.

But then the sugar coma made up for the madness.

One more thing. When my kids arrived home and dumped their booty on the floor I heard a voice boom through the living room: "Just ONE piece EACH!"

How cold and harsh. How lame and adult. How mom of a thing to say. How shocking to realize I was the one saying it. And all I can say is when did that happen? When did I go from being the one running in the cool dark night, dragging a pillow sack of candy to every house in the county to being the one who sneaks home early to wipe the kitchen table?

I don't know but am still trying to figure it out. Good thing I've got like 500 more mini candy bars to eat while I'm doing so and 3 small children who actually think mommy and daddy are supposed to eat the trick or treat stash.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Hate My Bathroom; COMPETITION ANNOUNCEMENT: Decorate My Toilet Seat and Win a Million Bucks!

At the risk of sounding completely ungrateful, I hate my bathroom. It quite certainly is the least favorite room in my house. I'll explain why in just a moment but before I do, let me tell all of you Depression era grandpa's out there who are saying: "Just be grateful you got a pooper" and "When I was a boy, we had to hike 15 miles in the snow and ice just to take a wizz in a rusty ole' hole" that YES, I am thankful for what I have. Yes, I'm thankful I've got a pooper (btw: apologies for actually writing the word "pooper." Frankly, I don't know what has gotten into me.) I'm thankful, thankful, THANKFUL!!

However, that doesn't mean I still can't HATE:

The view from my toilet of my neighbors gazebo that blew over 3 MONTHS AGO (not a good photo, but believe me it's ugly),

My light fixture that is oh so nihilistic and simple in design,

My black mold growing under the clear silicon caulk that the home improver before us put in that no matter how much you scrub remains black as black can be (and yes, that is an empty bottle of mustard that my kids have been using as a bath toy).

And finally, my wood paneling, broken toilet and linoleum that stays grey no matter how many times its bleached. I'll spare you pics of the vanity and the medicine cabinet but believe me, I hate those as well.

Now, before you move onto the next blog, there is a reason for this tirade: Note, my new white toilet seat. Gussie broke the previous one and we had to find a quick fix at WalMart cause the closest Loews is a bit of a drive.

When we were strolling the bathroom aisle, in addition to lusting over the shiny chrome wall fixtures and faucets, I had my eye on a palm tree toilet seat. Unfortunately, it didn't fit my pot. But it got me thinking that if I could decorate this white canvas of a toilet seat with something so insanely snazzy that I may possibly be able to take my hated bathroom full circle in my mind from being my most hated room because it's so ugly and strange to being my most favorite room because it's so ugly and strange (got that?).

Here's where you come in. My only ideas so far for toilet seat adornment are:

1. a painting of a coyote (so I could invite guests to sleep in the cowboy room and make use of the coyote potty); it would also be a nod to Brett's sweatshirts on Flight of the Concords

2. a desert island scene (kinda like the palm tree potty seat that first gave me the idea) -- only this one would have a cactus and a cowboy / Indian battle scene, a hula dancer and fireworks in the background

3. fuchsia, just plain fuchsia (so far this is my personal favorite)

Pete suggests a poem about the potty itself but I don't know. Whatever I do it will have to be in permanent pen or marker as it will have to withstand frequent bleaching.

But as I said earlier, here's where you come in. If you email me or write in comments about how I should decorate my potty and I choose your idea, you'll win the following rad prizes:

1. I'll use your idea, take a photo of your suggested art and give you credit for it on this here blog.

2. I'll bake and send you cookies (I mean it and that's better than a million bucks. Well, not really, I know. But hey, if I make my kids play with empty mustard bottles in the bath I obviously can't afford such a pricey reward.)

3. Full usage of your prize-winning, decorated potty any and every time you visit my ugly, but no longer hated bathroom.

So get to work. Time's running out. Competition ends a week from today. So send in your ideas and help me make my hated pooper a potty so pretty that it is no longer hated but a mecca of bathroom bliss.

You also may just win blog fame and cookies while you're at it.


Friday, October 24, 2008

If I Had a Hammer

So if you need a break from the presidential race (of course you do), rent season one of Flight of the Conchords but only if you like your humor dished out in an Ishtar (yes, I said Ishtar), Waiting for Guffman, Napoleon Dynamite kinda way.

The show is about two loser songsters from New Zealand and is completely impossible to describe other than to say it is far more interesting and hilarious than watching the polls.
Speaking of the polls. I just need to say one thing about this scary and surreal presidential election.

Has everyone forgotten that the first and foremost job of the President is to be the Commander in Chief of the US Military -- to be the buck stops here dude of the Federal Government? Somehow the job has morphed into being a conglomerate King / Messiah / bobbing head personification of everything Americans think they are, wish they were, want the world to think we are while at the same time saving us from all we're not, all we've squandered and all we'll always fail to be.

No wonder we're always disappointed in the dude. And no wonder he always does a crappy job -- because his job description has become too large. Wouldn't it make more sense if the guy could just make sure our boarders are safe and declare war if needed (OR NOT). That and veto a few bills here or there, maybe grant a pardon or two ... Why should the guy tell us how to marry, educate our kids or decide when life begins? Doesn't anyone remember that America is comprised of 50 united States, each with its own capable ruling authority able to mete out law for its people. [note: I realize I am no expert on Government but I hope you'll grasp the spirit of what I'm saying.]

If we had wanted a King, we shouldn't have all hopped on the Mayflower. If we want a Messiah, good news -- he arrived 2000 years ago and is still saving people soul by soul throughout time (but that's another story), if we want a bobbing head to personify all that America stands for then vote for an actor who at least can deliver a good speech -- oh yeah, that's been done ... But if we just want a president ... oh but that would be too simple ... so simple that perhaps our boarders would even end up secured ... vote for ...

Thank God we have a few more days to figure this one out (okay, okay, conservatives, of course I'm voting for McCain, but only reluctantly).

In the meantime, rent Flight of the Conchords, watch it, then call me to talk about how stinkin funny it is.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Welcome Caleb David


Congratulations Jesse, Anna & Piper! We are so happy about your new arrival and can't wait to meet him in person.

Much love,

Sarah, Pete, Haven, Gussie & Simeon

P.S. Caleb looks like a very small version of Jesse wrapped in a blanket. Actually, he looks like Jesse and a little red alien space monkey ... a BEAUTIFUL little, red alien space monkey!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Manchop: A Trail of Destruction & Discipline Lesson #1: A Reflection on Disfunctional Correction

Sometimes cuteness cancels out naughtiness


Spankings can even be averted

When the cuteness is so cute that it supercedes the naughtiness (note: the reflection of the offenders face in the puddle of maple syrup on the table that was poured in the split second I took to clean up the depotted plant. Seeing that I took time to photograph the event rather than tan a hide, one would successfully conclude that this would be a prime example of cuteness superceding naughtiness -- it happens; shh, don't tell Dobson).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkins and Poodles

Placing babies on pumpkins is a sure indicator that one has been raised by poodles ...

Gussie picked his pumpkin quickly with a furrowed brow and a decisive grunt ... Raised by poodles? I think not. Poor boy ...

And here's Manny again posing the baby on a pumpkin: more evidence of a happy poodle upbringing.

That is, if being raised by poodles turns a lady into the best grandmother that ever walked the face of the earth.

That's right, Manny came back for her fall visit. We picked pumpkins, walked through leaves and let the sunshine of her love warm us all weekend.

The poodles must know what they're doing. The pumpkin thing made the baby smile all afternoon. He looks a little less like a turnip now. More like Winston Churchill... no, more like the Christmas elf who stole all the candy and ate it himself ... not so much like the German tourist anymore ... but he's definitely happy. And he's definitely insanely good looking and ridiculously handsome just like his daddy ... but enough baby gushing ... and husband gushing (yikes!) ...

Haven clearly wasn't raised by poodles. Poor boy. He's displaying early signs of homeschooling. I should just stop that right now for his own good. Poodles, I tell you. Poodles ... I need to find a few ...

And here's the happy family on the glowing day in October that Manny visited.

Manny dear, thank you so much for seeing the beauty around you when so many couldn't recognize it if it smacked them upside the head.

You are sunshine. Your are magic. You sprinkle childhood with dizzying stardust, and I'm so very glad you come around to sit on my couch and read books to my children.

I'll see you at my mom's place in November and December so please come back up our way in the dead cold of February to pull us along to spring. We'll need you so badly then. We'll need you and ALL the poodles. Call them now so they pencil it in ...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October's Eventide

Marshmallows and moonshine,
you're mine
all mine
Along with the revelers who shared you
On this October evening
Lighter fluid, lanky limbs
cool air, smoke and dust
You're still warm here in my hand
On this October evening
Autumn dear, stay longer this year
stomp off a wee bit slower
Of course you'll decline
but for now you're mine
On this October evening

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Tunnel

I read this article recently that describes the parenting stage when you have a couple kids and the oldest is not yet 5 years old as "the tunnel" -- sweet, precious but also oftentimes dark and trying.

I could immediately relate.

But then I stumbled on this picture of Gussie lounging on a sleeping Pete. My Gus -- so sweet and dependent with his thumb in his mouth. I remember those jammies; he wore them this past spring when the mornings were still cold. He's already grown so much in the few months since this picture was taken.

I look at the picture and think about the babies I have now -- Haven, Gussie and Simeon. And while the Lord may send new ones, I'll never have these ones just the way they are ever again. They're growing and changing so much everyday.

It's in these rare moments of clarity that I realize what a treasure I have here in this "tunnel." And in these moments I try to slow down ... leave the kitchen messy ... the whole house for that matter ... cause I sure am in "the tunnel," but at least when I look at this picture, I don't ever want to leave.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walk for Life

Walk for Life
This Saturday, Oct. 4th
Lehigh Canal Park
Weisport, PA
10 a.m.

We'll be there & I hope you'll join us.

Prayer to End Abortion

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life, And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters. I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son. I am ready to do my part in ending abortion. Today I commit myself Never to be silent, Never to be passive, Never to be forgetful of the unborn. I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, And never to stop defending life Until all my brothers and sisters are protected, And our nation once again becomes A nation with liberty and justice Not just for some, but for all, Through Christ our Lord.


-- Priests for Life