Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One of my favorite hymns

HT Sr. Allie

Nativity Scene in Patchogue, Long Island

M. Philip Butler, an executive from Grucci fireworks, is featured
in an article in Newsday for having the dedication to set up this Nativity Scene, in downtown Patchogue, with the help of the following sponsors:
Knights of Columbus 725
Roe family
Jim Bermel Electrictrician
Jim DeLuca Tri-Del Solutions
Corner Stone Cafe
Frank Bosco
Carmine Frazese
Patchogue FD
Hagerman FD

Monday, November 26, 2007

Swimming lessons for Christina

Our Down sydnrome support group has had a month of free swimming lessons at the local YMCA. Christina progressed from clingy to independent in only four weeks. Look how happy she is here. Now she can tread water and even make a little forward progress in the water. Way to go, Christina!
Check out that serious swimmer by the stairs. He did 45 minutes of laps! He'll be a Special Olymipian in a year or two!

I'm swimming all by myself, Mom!

The Birth of Christ: Catholic Christmas Cantata

Another artistic venture by a Catholic is coming on the scenes. This time, it's a beautiful cantata written to honor the Christmas story based on the Gospel of St. Luke. Liam Neeson narrates scriptural passages. This is really a classy production and will be aired locally.

Here's a video clip:

Please promote this by tell friends and family. You can find when and where in the U.S. other PBS stations will be airing the concert at this link:

Productions like this (and Bella and The Passion of the Christ) are genuine improvements in the entertainment industry. The people involved are taking risks and they need to hear that this type of entertainment is wanted. So don't forget to call your local station to thank them for showing something of such great quality. Be sure to let them know you appreciate them showing something that pays wonderful tribute to the birth of Our Lord.

You can also listen to Raymond Arroyo interviewing the composer, Andrew T. Miller, (originally aired 11/23/07) by checking the archives of The World Over at

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Please pray for Hannah Cate

Hannah Cate is a little girl with Down syndrome from Georgia. She has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. I am asking for you to join with me in asking the intercession of Servant of God, Dr. Jerome Lejeune, for Hannah's healing. Here is a note from a friend of the family.
Thanks so much for agreeing to pray for my daughter's friend, Hannah Cate. John and Joan (my aunt and uncle) told me that the link I sent out didn't work. First, I think you have to "register" at the site, using this link Hannah Cate's site is here
I think the registration is to keep visitor accountability. She is having a real rough time right now, so we all truly appreciate your prayers. Please feel free to pass this on to any other prayer warriors you know! The more the better ;-)
As a fellow homeschooler, I hope I get to meet you sometime. The Collins family homeschools as well. Hope you have a truly blessed Christmas season. Thanks again for storming heaven with us...
Pat Fenner

Flying turkey surprise

Have you seen the ">Turkey commercial that folks are circulating this Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving Dinner promised to be somewhat quiet, just my three girls and us over at Mom and Dad's house. Francisco asked to carve the turkey, which my father gladly surrendered, as he hates that job, and the fun began. The large turkey was precariously positioned on the counter, and when Francisco applied the right amount of pressure, the tray flipped the 20 pound bird off the counter for it's last flight, accross the kitchen!
The carver adroitly rescued the turkey from the waiting hounds, and offered that he had already carved off the best parts anyway. . .So, we ate what was already carved, and, well, no one was enthusiastic about the turkey leftovers this year.
Here, doggy. . .

Friday, November 23, 2007

How to get your catechism class engaged

Catholic Exchange has a great article on how to get your catechism class engaged in the Faith. I was pleasantly surprised to note that I already employ several of these techniques in my bilingual Spanish First Holy Communion Class, including:
1. beginning with a prayer and sometimes a hymn ( since I teach seven year olds, I have to teach the hymn before we can sing it. We are also learning the rosary in English (last year, they learned it in Spanish) and offer our own petitions each week.
2. Including personal examples from my life. This is easy, they are in my home, and opportunities to share are readily available.
3. Listen to their experiences, and incorporate them into the theme of the lesson. I can't count how many times I have used school and home examples from their own lives to illustrate "what God expects of us"(sin) and "how much God has give us and loves us" lessons.
4. Attend their functions. We try to attend the Spanish Mass at least once a month to keep in touch with the families. I am often invited to communion and graduation parties as the guest of honor. I always try to make it.

Something new for your wish list

The Kindle reader from Amazon. Now, all we need is one which reads to you. It would be great for the blind, the car, and for busy moms.

Congresswoman Kathy McMorris Rogers has a son with Down syndrome

She was interviewed in a video by CNN.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood. . .

Christina continues to do well in preschool, entering happily, participating in circle time and art and only missing Mommy a bit, near the end of the 2 1/2 hour class. Her teachers seem truly fond of her, and the other therapists in the public school have noticed a change in her attitude toward them. She is more open to learning with them. I hope for some real progress now that her attitude seems better.

Now, we head into Thanksgiving weekend, with something to thank God for, His guidance leading Christina into a loving and nurturing environment where she is accepted, and invited to grow.

I thank those of you who prayed for this intention, I was aware of your prayers, spread round the globe, all for a special little girl who is the joy of her family.
Speaking of preschool, Barbara Curtis has some inspiration from our favorite preschool TV host, Mr. Rogers. I have always sensed an emotional intelligence about Mr. Rogers. I believe that was the secret of his success for decades, despite being low on fancy sets, or exciting characters. My daughter won't watch just any show, but would watch Mr. Rogers patiently. I think she enjoys his calm, reassuring manner.

Remember to count your blessings this Thanksgiving

I always try to count our blessings with the children on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. Our health, our material bounty, our family, the safety of our country, homeschooling, and mostly our Catholic faith,which we try to practice in all it's glory, are our greatest blessings.

Do you do this with your family? Here is a meditation to help.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Angel Tree Project

Reece's Rainbow Down Syndrome Adoption Ministry promotes the international adoption and rescue of children with Down syndrome exclusively. Your generous support of this ministry over the last 17 months has already changed the course of the lives of (40) FORTY children with Down syndrome from 29 countries around the world!!!

*** (12) children are already home with their new adoptive families
*** (13) more children will be home before Christmas 2007
*** (15) more children are expected home between January and March of 2008!
*** (82) children on our website are still waiting for adoptive families to rescue them from life in a mental institution.

This is the perfect opportunity for YOU to change the course of an orphan's life!
By sponsoring a child today, you get to share in the joy of uniting families with very deserving children.
Give the gift of a "forever family" this Christmas to your choice of children in our Waiting Angels Gallery. They may never know you, but your generous sponsorship towards the cost of a family adopting them is the most profound gift they could ever hope to receive. Even if you are not in a position to adopt, you can still change a life!

Please visit our website for additional ways to help.
You can give online through Paypal, and are also welcome to send personal checks or money orders

Friday, November 16, 2007

Feast of St. Gertrude the Great

Eternal Father, I offer you the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in purgatory,
for sinners everywhere, those in the Universal Church,
in my home and
in my own family.

Are 1,000 souls really released from purgatory? Theologians tell us we may not be certain of the exact number. But we do know that Our Lord points to the efficacy of our prayers offered up for these suffering souls. A "thousand" souls released could very well mean more than we can count, more than we dare to ask.

St. Gertrude's Feast Day is November 16. She is call "Great" because of her love for the Sacred Heart and the beloved souls in Purgatory.

We are told that most souls are released on Christmas Day. In honor of St. Gertrude add her prayer in your Christ-Mass Cards. We can give Paradise to the holy souls and swell the ranks of the Church Triumphant. We can ask Our Lord to empty Purgatory on Christmas day. Let us ask more than we dare. Let us be BOLD in our asking. Let us give these suffering friends to Our Lord on His Birthday.

What a glorious Christ-Mass day in Heaven it will be for everyone.

By Susan Tassone

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mommy Life author is becoming a Catholic!

One of my writer role models, Barbara Curtis, mother of twelve, including three boys with Down syndrome (two adopted) prolific author, speaker, and blogger at Mommy Life is coming home to Rome!
Go on over to Mommy Life, and give her a big Catholic mom welcome! Read about her journey from left-coast hippie, to evangelical mega-mom, to Roman Catholic. What a joyful event this is!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A joke which made me cry

I always cringe when the phone rings late at night, and pick up the phone warily, heart pounding, voice cracking with worry.
My friend John called me at 10:45 PM, totally unaware of my panic, he was breathlessly excited about news which had just appeared on our homeschool bulletin board.
An unborn baby boy with Down syndrome needs a loving home. Two sets of parents, both already blessed with two children, were contemplating adoption of this little boy, whose own father was pressuring his mother to abort him. They needed my expert opinion on just what kind of investment; financial, emotional, and spiritual was necessary to be a good parent to a special child.
John's wife was animated as we discussed the pros and cons of raising a child with Down syndrome via speakerphone. "We're doing rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to adopt him" she laughed.
As I laughed in response, tears sprang to my eyes at the beautiful irony of the situation. Two sets of parents, already blessed with children, with modest means, considering adoption at a time in their lives where many people look forward to empty nests.
Do they have any idea how crazy they seem in the eyes of the world?
And how beautiful they are in the eyes of God?!
Today a third set of parents, this time with three children, are inquiring about this baby boy.
This is the result of a life lived for Christ. This is the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony multiplied by the grace of the Holy Mass.
This is the type of grace I want to write about in my book.
Thank you, my friends for your beautiful example. I am blessed to know you!

An autumn walk in my neighborhood

I live on the East End of Long Island, which is far from everything except the beach. It makes life difficult sometimes, but when my girls and I take a walk like this, it's all worth it.

Don't you agree?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Review of "Mr Blue Sky"

Sometimes the girl next door holds the keys to your happiness. Three neighbors, Andra, Bonnie and Greg, grow up across the street from one another. When tragedy strikes, causing Greg's mother to lose hope and take her own life, Andra sends him a drawing of "Mr Blue Sky", as she calls the sky to console him. Her mother has told her that he is present even when the clouds block him out, and he will come out again someday. When Andra is mocked and bullied at school, because she has Down Syndrome, Bonnie and Greg come to her aid, and they form a close bond. Andra's mother fears for her daughter's future; her father had abandoned them at birth, and so many of her classmates reject her calling her stupid, only Greg and Bonnie stand by her, so they become known as the three soulmates. The girls vow to be 'friends forever'.Fifteen years later,we see Bonnie as a successful lawyer, dating Greg now an elementary school teacher, where they all attended school. Andra attends community college, and her mother approaches Greg for tutoring help for Andra as she nears graduation.
Something in Andra's kindness to him as a child, and her sunny optimism gives Greg pause, making him look beyond his shallow relationship with Bonnie, and his father's deep alcoholic depression since his mother's death. Could it be love? Does Greg dare to defy social convention and listen to his heart?
Emotional impact is key in this story of friendship ripening into love, and rich performances by Ashley Wolfe and Chaney Kley win over the skeptics about this heretofore unheard of relationship. What was once unthinkable; a love relationship between a woman with Down Syndrome and a 'normal' man, captures your heart, challenging old stereotypes. This film was fresh and engaging, with stirring performances by Chaney Kley and Ashley Wolfe, who in her first movie shows promising talent. Richard Karn of "Home Improvement" is Greg's dad, and Ken Rosier is Mr Hounsou, the school principal.
This movie is being shown at the Babylon, Long Island Cinema for a week-long limited release until November 15.

Living Proof Testimonies

Coral Ridge ministries has a video about the Fuller family who has two daughters with Down syndrome, Johanna who is their biological child, and Hope who was adopted. The girls have three older brothers.
Their mother, Nina has written a book, Special Strength for Special Parents to help parents through their adjustment to special parenting.

Sunday Brunch photos by Isabella

Here is the artist with her subject. I'll let the pictures speak here.
Have a blessed Sunday with your family. I know I will.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

No angels on that Christmas Tree, Grandma!

The Plant City Living Center has told Mrs. Arnold, an 85-year-old grandmother in Florida, that federal law prohibits her from displaying any religious words or items associated with Christmas in the common area of her apartment building.
Read the rest of this story on my Christmas blog here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Your prayers are working to help Christina

One of the aspects of my life I seldom share here are my frustrations with raising Christina. I love her and want others to love her as they read this blog, but life with her has been difficult these past three years because of her temperament. In one word: stubborn. I ran a daycare for three years out of my home nine years ago, and she is the most stubborn child I have ever seen!

You saw a hint of it here; but now I have a doctor's note to prove it. Christina, by means of my answering a Vineland survey and other self-reporting psycho-social tests, as part of a research project at the University of Rochester, has some personality tendencies that keep her from reaching her potential. Her refusal to break with certain routines, for example, and potty train, or her lack of cooperation with therapists in the home have made me feel like she will never learn to speak or use the toilet, get a haircut without a struggle, or stop running away from me in public, or get along with children smaller than herself. I have sought help in these areas, but nothing has worked. She hasn't potty trained in 5 months, she wasn't accepting her home therapists these past two months, she continues to hit children smaller than herself, and run away from me in public, forcing me to use a stroller to keep her safe. She seems stuck in toddlerhood.

I want to take her out in public and watch her play happily with other children, without an incident like a hot day last summer, when she hit a toddler's head hard against the bars of the playground, and his mother came running at her cursing like a sailor. I was mortified not only by what Christina had done, but by this mother's behaviour, and grabbed Christina out of her path in fear of her reaction, avoiding the park since. This incident has really shaken me, and I fear that in social situations, she could make herself an outcast like Peter in the HBO documentary, "Educating Peter". It's a two part film about a young man with Down syndrome in Virginia who had been mainstreamed into public school classes. Peter was the favorite of his second grade class, but, by the time Peter was graduating from high school, he had no friends and no job. He couldn't even tie his shoes. This is what I fear for Christina, not because she's not bright, but because she doesn't cooperate, and can't express herself in words.

She can count to ten and knows her colors, but has only done this once for her teacher, though she does count on her own or with us. She can throw a ball, but rare was the teacher for whom she would do this. I asked everyone I know how to overcome her refusal to do what she can do on command, and not one of her therapists had an answer. We even had a grant for a behavioral specialist who wasn't able to crack her code of refusal.

But, apparently God can. Today, she asked her speech teacher to go outside, and spoke continuously for their 45 minute session today. Her teacher was amazed and delighted; she hasn't had a day like this in months! Then, in her school-based sessions, she was again singularly cooperative, asking permission, for example to eat the Play-doh (promptly denied) and actually obeyed! She asked for her therapy vest to come off, rather than trying to pull it off and crying in frustration. Again, the therapists were overjoyed.

I am presuming that this is because your prayers for her are having an effect, coupled with the new pre-school, and five fewer therapy sessions in the home. Christina hates having to take instructions from therapists in our home, it seems to her enough to have two big sisters, and Mom and Dad bossing her around. She takes every opportunity to tell the cats or the dogs where to go and how to behave, she's got to be the boss of somebody!

Please keep the prayers coming, I had never stopped praying for her but my hopes for her were very low. I felt like a failure as a mother, yet was not able to trust her full time to a school before she can speak and tell me when something's wrong.

Today may not be repeated, but it has reminded me that she can change, and be open to all the wonderful gifts God has given her, and reach out and grow.
And I will re-learn the beauty of the Communion of saints, those of you who are here and those I hope to meet in heaven!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

For all my prayer warriors, THANK YOU!

I pulled up 20 minutes early to pick up Christina from pre-school wondering whether I would be able to see her from the window of the classroom. Within seconds, her little head popped up and spotted our van, and tearfully demanded to go home from her first day in preschool. Her teachers said, that things were going well until then. Oh well, now I know not to park so close to the school!
Thank you, my friends, for all for your prayerful support, from England through Kansas to Hawaii, the Catholic blogging community had my little girl wrapped in love from Heaven during her first day in preschool in two years. The other mothers seemed to accept the fact that she needed a special teacher, and has Down syndrome, and as I said, her teachers are great.
God is good!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Children's Production of "The Weight of a Mass" by Josephine Nobisso

Fall back

Forty Days for Life finished today, and the second crucial weekend for "Bella" has ended, officially wrapping up Respect Life month. It has been the busiest October ever, thanks to this blog getting me involved in so many worthwhile projects.
Today, however, after the last baby bottle full of change for Life Center had been collected, and the last protest letter signed, the girls and I decided to get busy in the kitchen.
We made apple dumplings, something I'd always heard about but never made. We used the Rome apples from last week's pumpkin farm excursion, and had fun wrapping each apple in pastry and pouring in the sugar cinnamon sauce. I realized how rushed life has been lately and relished their company. I am teaching four days a week, some of my classes are as short as two hours, others as long as five, but it's getting dressed and out that is the most difficult. I would rather be blogging, cooking, reading with the girls, nearly anything!Thank God for homeschooling, to ensure that, despite my having to work, we still spend the great majority of time together.
Now, we'll be able to get to bed earlier than ususal, and get an early start for Christy's first day in "Gentle Hearts" preschool.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Where I was during Hurricane Noel

In the second to last day of 40 Days for Life, we were covering all the Planned Parenthoods on Long Island, whether they do surgical abortions or just chemical abortions. Here I am with 3 other protesters (one is the cameraman) . The office was closed that day.
Apparently the climate was unfavorable.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gentle Hearts Preschool

Remember when I posted about being concerned that no private preschool would except Christina? Thanks to your prayers, I have found Gentle Hearts Preschool (don't you just love that name?) which is operated out of the local Presbyterian Church.
Teresa, the director, has experience with special needs children, and has a true love for them, even bending the no-diaper rule for Christina. The children were all happily engaged in activities and seem fond of the three teachers. Christina will begin there shortly, accompanied by Catherine, her special ed teache, whom she has had for a year, but has refused to do any work since she began therapy at the local elementary school three hours a week. We are so excited to begin, Christina had to be dragged out of the school bodily when we visited!

My reason for sending her to preschool rather than kindergarten, is that my district has a full-day kindergarten with an inexperienced male teacher with an attitude which tells me he does NOT understand children. I doubt he's even a father. And, after Christy's last male teacher suddenly left her former preschool under dubious circumstances after 20 years of teaching there, I am terribly protecive of my sweet little girl. Can you blame me?
So, next Monday, I will again entrust my barely verbal, vulnerable child to a school for five hours a week. Keep us in your prayers.
On the wall of the school is one of my favorite songs to sing with Christina.
Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world,
red and yellow, black and white
( and Down syndrome)
they are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

All Hallows Eve Celebration

Our All Hallows Eve Celebration began with the Traditional Mass, which included the Litany of the Saints, followed by dinner, guess which saint I am, bobbing for apples, and begging for soul cakes.
We finished the evening with the lighting of the jack-o-lanterns and the recitation of the Litany for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. It was a mixture of grace and fun, and a fitting start to the month which ends the Liturgical Year, when we contemplate the Four Last Things, death, judgement, heaven and hell.