Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seven Quick Takes, New York Style!

This year's Christmas present from my in-laws was a family weekend in New York City and tickets to see Blue Man Group. I've decided to use the Seven Quick Takes meme (hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary) to give you a rundown on the fun we had in the Big Apple.


In my last post, I told you about how the kids were sick the day we left, and how we became part of a crowd of Marchers for Life in a service area along the highway. We reached our hotel on Friday night at around 10:30 pm--way past the kids' bedtime (a side note--we believe in letting kids watch DVDs on long trips. Some of my fellow bloggers may balk at this, but let me tell you, it makes for a much easier trip. For the record, we watched "UP" and "Rattatouille.") Our hotel room in Secaucus, NJ, had a view similar to this one,

except we couldn't see the river. It was nice to wake up in the morning and look out at the WAY COOLEST city in North America.


We opted to drive into the city, and frankly I was surprised at how easy it is to find parking in Manhattan. There are parking garages on practically every block. Some of them even have valet parking, which makes it that much easier. (I left the driving to my husband; that's another story.) We spent a big part of Saturday at the American Museum of Natural History. For several hours we wandered through the exhibits (five floors of them), took in a planetarium show, and resisted the temptation to buy junky souveniers at the gift shops.

one of the many dinosaur skeletons on display

I'm always saddened by the fate of the once-abundant passenger pigeon. Seems folks took them for granted and recklessly killed them off until suddenly there were none left.

We liked this display--it reminded us of the monkey in the movie "Night at the Museum;" after all, this was where it took place. Some of the museum exhibits we saw were featured in the movie; others (like the wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt) were made up.

Is it just me, or should this say "the Sandhill by far the more widespread and more common?" Isn't "commoner" a noun, like "riff-raff?"

My mother says that Helen Keller wrote once that if she were granted the gift of sight for one day, she would visit this museum so she could look at all the dioramas. If you can't see the world in one day, she reasoned, at least she could get an idea of what the world's marvels looked like.


Next we headed over to the Empire State Building. Here is Moe's painting of it that he made the previous weekend... ...when we got to it, we couldn't see the top. Oh, there it is!

We were on the observation deck just as the sun was setting. It wasn't nearly as cold and windy up there as we thought it would be.


My father-in-law, who grew up in and lived in New Jersey for many years, decided to wait for us in the Starbucks across the street from the Empire State Building. He has been to the top many times, and he decided to sit this one out. When we reached the bottom and arrived at the coffee shop, to my surprise he had bought this mug just for me:

After dinner at Jack Dempsey's Pub, it was time to drive down to Greenwich Villiage for the Blue Man Group show. The venue was a small, intimate theater; nothing like the Vegas- or Broadway-style mega auditorium I imagined it would be. We couldn't take pictures or videos at the show, of course, but here's a taste of what we were treated to. (Sorry I don't have the video posted directly to this blog; the only way I know how to do it is to put the video up first, and write the rest of the blog post around it. Forgot to do that this time.)

If you ever have a chance to see a Blue Man Group performance, it's a real treat. Larry, Curly, and Moe decided that if the Three Stooges were aliens, they'd be Blue Men.


Sunday morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral was magnificent. We attended the 10:15 Mass, which seemed to be one of the most popular. When my husband and I came here two years ago, we had a flight to catch Sunday morning, and went to the 8 am Mass, which had no music or singing. This time the cathedral was filled with pipe organ music and the voices of the amazing choir (which sounded like one probably had to audition for); there was inscense, and the Gloria, Pater Noster, and Credo were all sung in Latin. This photo does St. Patrick's absolutely no justice. I opted to bring my old 5 megapixel pocket camera instead of my other one, which takes better pictures but is a little clunky.

St. Anthony of Padua's statue and side altar

The beautiful side altar of Our Lady of Czestochowa


After Mass, it was across the street to Rockefeller Plaza, and a visit to the Nintendo World store. Larry informed us it was the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The other Nintendo World, he says, is in Japan. Then it was lunch at the famous Stage Deli, a walk through Times Square, and finally it was time to retreive our car from the parking garage and make the long trek home.
The only negative aspect of the trip was that my mother-in-law wasn't with us. Poor thing, she was sick at home while we were on the town. It was a fantastic weekend, but it would have been even better if Grandma were with us. We'll just have to plan another trip; next time, we'll treat them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Small Part of Something Great

Last Friday, we had to skip the March for Life for three reasons: 1). I was scheduled to substitute, 2). We were driving to New York that afternoon/evening, and logistically it would have been impossible to attend the March and pull that off as well, and 3). Two of the kids were sick. Moe hadn't been feeling well earlier in the week; he had a cold and cough for several days, developed a fever, and stayed home from school Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning he felt much better, but Curly announced he didn't feel well. Knowing I was subbing that day I hoped he would be able to tough it out, but when he threw up I knew we were in trouble. The school ended up cancelling music classes for the day. Curly had a slight fever, and it was by Divine Providence that I was able to get him in to see the doctor that morning. The doctor's office performed a Strep test, and it was positive. No problem! With antibiotics he would be fine. (She even perscribed some drugs for Larry too, after I casually mentioned that he had a sore throat that morning). After we arrived home, Curly and I were eating lunch and watching EWTN's coverage of the March when the school called to tell us Moe had a fever (again). Once more it was by the grace of God we got an appointment. Turns out Moe had bronchitis and a sinus infection. More antibiotics, and the trip was on! (Unfortunately my mother-in-law, who was planning to come with us, was sick at home. She's much better now.)

After a couple of uneventful hours in the car, we decided it was time to get something to eat. We pulled into a service area--you know, one of those combination rest area/gas station/convenience store/food court; and my father-in-law commented on the large number of buses that were in the parking lot. We prepared ourselves for the place to be somewhat crowded, and went into the building ready to wait in line at the Roy Rogers. We were met by a sea of people shoulder to shoulder, all milling around between the restrooms, the restaraunt area, and the convenience store. Here was a group of high school kids; here was a priest with a long beard, dressed in a gray habit similar to the one Father Benedict Groechel wears when we see him on EWTN. Nearby were a couple of nuns. It wasn't until I spotted a woman with a bright orange sticker on the back of her jacket identifying her as a member of the Philadelphia Archdiocese that the light bulb went off. A huge grin crossed my face when I realized that all of these folks were traveling home after a long day at the March for Life. Even though the place was jam-packed with people, everyone was cheerful, and although most looked tired, they all seemed happy and there was a sense of brotherhood among everyone in the crowd. Suddenly having to wait a long time for a meal didn't seem so bad at all. I'm sure most people there thought we had been to the March too; especially if they noticed the goofy smile on my face.

After we all had used the restroom, it was decided (by everyone but me) that it would be better to leave and find someplace to eat that wasn't so crowded. I couldn't help but feel a twinge of disappointment, not being able to hang out with all these fantastic pro-lifers (it always blows me away when people accuse pro-life activists of being extremist or even terrorists. There was such a sense of love and fellowship in that room you could feel it.) I knew deep down that with three tired and hungry boys, there would soon be some whining, and it would be VERY late by the time we arrived at our hotel. Reluctantly I followed my family back to the car, and as we left the parking lot we saw dozens upon dozens of buses. They say there were at least 300,000 people at the March in Washington; I think half of them must have been at that service area that night.

We pulled off at an exit a few miles down the highway, to a Burger King with almost no one inside (and more importantly, no line to wait in for food). I was thankful, though, that we had come across the Marchers for Life at the rest area. Even though I hadn't been there, I still felt for a brief moment that I was a part of it. (Click here to read my blog post about attending last year's March for the first time.) Will we be at the March in 2011? I hope so; but if we can't be there in person we'll be there in spirit--just as we were this year.

In my next post, I'll tell you about the fantastic weekend we had in New York City!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seven Early Takes--Death, Life, Joy and Grief

I know I'm a couple of days early posting Seven Quick Takes, but I have a little breathing room today and I don't know when I'll have a chance to blog again.


In our church bulletin this past weekend our parish priest's weekly letter was a list of several topics he needed to discuss. He used this cool new numbering system that he stole from the youth minister. I thougt it was pretty clever myself!


For the past week I have been watching with increasing horror and grief the TV and internet coverage of the awful earthquake in Haiti. There is so much I could say about this. I am grieving night and day for all the people of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere; especially all those people killed by the quake, lying trapped underneath the rubble, and the thousands of people who have lost their homes and family members. It's devestating to know that many people are dying now for lack of doctors and medicine. We all need to keep praying for Haiti, and to open up our pockets and give whatever we can. Thanks to my new friendship with Twitter, I found this beautiful prayer on Michelle Malkin's website. (I probably should print it out and tape it to my refrigerator.) Archbishop Timothy Dolan summed up the disaster with these words: "Haiti is the broken, bloody body of Jesus in the arms of His Mother."


The other day I saw this article (again, via Twitter): Apparently just days after the earthquake, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines are docking ships on private beaches in Haiti, just 60 miles from Port-Au-Prince. While dead bodies line the streets, and injured people are dying of gangrene, folks are frolicking on the beach and drinking Pina Coladas. The justification is that the ships are bringing supplies to donate to the relief effort, all of the proceeds from the ports-of-call in Haiti are being donated; and anyway, the folks who live near the luxury beaches depend on the cruise ships for their livelihood. Hmmmm. Lots of people are outraged by this, including Patrick Madrid. I'm not sure "outrage" is the right term for my reaction to the whole thing; "bewildered sadness" would be more like it. We live in a broken world, and there are still many people who would look the other way when others are hurting, because reaching out to others might mess up their own little happy worlds.


Take a look at this beautiful boy:

His name is Getro Vincent, and he lives about 200 miles north of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. My parents set up a sponsorship for him through World Vision as a Christmas gift for our three boys. After Christmas was over, I set the little folder of pamphlets aside, with a mental note to have my children write to him soon. For the first couple of days after the earthquake, I was so upset over the hundreds of thousands of people dead and dying, I did not even think about little Getro. One morning as I was enjoying breakfast, I remembered him, and honestly I thought I would pass out from worry. After a phone call to World Vision, however, I was told by the representative that his community was not directly affected (that's when I learned he lived far enough away from the capital that he would most likely be spared). Later World Vision announced that all of their sponsored children in Haiti were safe. Praise God! They are doing great work in Port-Au-Prince now as well. (Even Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision USA, whose book I reviewed in this post, is himself in the Hatian capital helping out with relief efforts.) One thing I was told over the phone was that because the ports are closed, people in the rural areas would need more help than usual since their supply of food, medicine, etc. has been cut off.


On a lighter "note," I have been substitute teaching these past couple of weeks for the music teacher at our school. It hasn't been easy, to say the least, but it has been a great way to get to know the children (I'm learning fast which kids will always listen to me and which ones will test me to the limit), and it has been a lot of fun, too. At one point I found myself literally singing and dancing in front of the class, and I thought, "So does this mean substitutes literally have to put on a song-and-dance show to keep kids' attention?" Even though music is generally not my "forte" (get it?) I'm happy to fill in while our music teacher recovers from surgery. It's only three days a week, so I have some time at home to catch up on chores, errands, and blogging! :)


I am substituting this Friday, so we'll be missing the March For Life this year. (Last year Curly and I went for the first time, and of course I blogged about it! :D) I don't know if it will make music classes easier or not; I expect there will be a number of kids attending from the school. Americans United for Life sponsors a Virtual March for Life for those of us who can't be there; I registered my name and now I have a little virtual person standing on the virtual Mall by the virtual U.S. Capitol building. You can check it out and add your name here.


Our trip to New York is coming up soon, and we are all getting very excited! This past weekend Moe dug out a box of tempra paints and some paper out of the basement and painted an image of the Empire State Building. (I took a picture of it, but haven't downloaded it to the computer yet. I'll try to remember to post it after our trip.) Back when I was first taking stabs at blogging, I published an account on Gather-dot-com of a New York trip my husband and I made a couple of years ago; you can check out the article and photos here.

I hope you all have a great rest-of-the-week, and a blessed weekend! I'll look forward to reading my fellow bloggers' Quick Takes, and thanks as always to Jennifer for hosting! :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

THe Holy Name of Jesus

Last night as I was poking around the Internet, I learned that January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus. I looked around a little more this morning, and discovered that January 3 was declared by Pope John Paul II to be the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and that the Church dedicates the month of January to this devotion. Now, I know very little about devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus; other than a few factoids about things like the Chi-Ro symbol (the Greek letters that come at the beginning and the end of the Greek word for Christ) and "IHS" being a monogram of "Jesus Christ"; plus the fact that the third commandment (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain) compels us to keep the name of Jesus holy. This got me thinking: Wouldn't it be great if every Christian (doesn't matter if you're Catholic, Protestant, or any denomination) made a commitment to invoke the name of Jesus OUT LOUD to at least one person every day this month? Now, I know many of us use Jesus' name in not-so-nice ways all too often; of course what I'm talking about is mentioning him in conversation in a loving way. I'm thinking if we made a conscious effort to make Jesus a part of our everyday speech, it would become habit. We could start in our own families; or if we're already used to talking about Jesus at home, try mentioning Jesus to close friends and then go from there. Of course, by putting this idea out there it means that I should make an effort to do this; I can consider it a New Year's Resolution of sorts, and maybe even ask Our Lady for the courage to try. (Check out this article about how Mary can help us make good resolutions, and how she can help us keep them.)

Hopefully I'll be able to learn a little bit more about the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and the history behind the devotion; meanwhile, I'd like to ask for your prayers to help me give this little gift to Our Lord and to challenge you to do the same. Praise the Holy Name of Jesus!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday--looking ahead to 2010

Happy New Year! Since it's the first day of 2010, and it's also Friday, I thought I'd tell you about some things I am looking forward to in the coming year.

1. I'm to become the mother of a teenager. Our oldest son, nicknamed Larry here, turns 13 soon. Last year for his twelfth birthday he invited some friends over for a slumber party, and since normally the boys get a party with their friends every other year, I thought I was off the hook for his thriteenth. Yesterday my friends informed me that 13 was a BIG milestone for a kid, and I needed to throw him a party. Any ideas?

2. Speaking of milestones, my mother and both of my husband's parents will turn 70 in 2010; my dad will reach his 75th birthday. Looks like we have some party planning to do.

3. My brother is getting married! I'm looking forward not only to the wedding festivities, but to many years of getting to know my new sister-in-law, and *hopefully* welcoming some new nieces and/or nephews in the years to come.

4. A weekend trip to New York City. Every Christmas, instead of buying toys and gadgets for us that might break or get lost, my in-laws give us gifts of special memories with them. Last year it was a day spent at a water park; another year we all went to Disney World. This year we are planning to spend a weekend in New York and an evening with Blue Man Group. I've only been to NYC a few times, but I love it, and I can't wait to go there with the whole family!

5. Confirmation Prep for Larry. I got an email a couple of months ago from the youth director at our parish asking if I would be willing to be a team leader for Larry's confirmation group. I don't know how it's done in other places, but in our parish the kids preparing for confirmation are divided into groups of 10 or so kids, and together they are expected to perform three corporal works of mercy and three spiritual works of mercy. Each team has one or two leaders--usually parents--who are in charge of planning activities and making sure all the kids participate. Fortunately I'm working with another mom, so I'm not having to do it all myself. We have until the end of the year to complete all six works, and I'm happy to say that we're already planning some for this winter. Once all the preparation is done, he'll be confirmed in 2011.

6. Enjoying our new deck, which was officially finished on December 30. It's built over the spot where I had my experimental container garden last year, so most likely I'll put out some pots on the sunny part of the deck, but I'm thinking I'll just have a few tomato plants and some herbs, and skip trying to grow other vegetables. At least for this year. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to many outdoor meals, and many hours lounging on the deck with a good book, a rosary, or stimulating conversation with friends and family. Curly already suggested we get one of those ourdoor fireplaces--the freestanding kind that people can gather around. We'll see; maybe that can be Dad's Father's Day present.

7. New Year's Resolutions? Pretty much the same as last year: more reading, more prayer, more exercise, etc. Last year I resolved to expand my garden, which I did, but I never got around to buying a composter. (That's probably a good thing; I'm not sure I'd really know what to do with it.) I did get more involved with the pro-life movement, but the part about volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center didn't happen. Maybe this year...the same goes for my resolution to eat something healthy with every meal and exercise every day. HAH! Not happenin'. Again, maybe this year...

I hope you all have many blessings in 2010! Today is my first "blogaversary," and I'm looking forward to another year of blogging. Think I can write more than 69 posts (my 2009 total)? We'll see. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with all of yours. Now it's time for me to go work out with Wii Fit. Or maybe my elliptical. After I throw a load of laundry in the wash...


p.s. Don't forget to go to Mass today, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God! We're going this evening; we all slept in this morning, and today we plan to watch football and start taking down our Christmas decorations.
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