Author Archives: Tara K. E. Brelinsky

woman's health

Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan

It’s happening again. Article after article appearing in my news feed. The theme is the same, although each has a slightly different slant to offer. Just as last year, I pour over each one, nodding all the while as my eyes scan the screen. The topic is birth control. Each post does a good job at lifting the veil and sparking interest. However, I’m usually left thinking that there are a few more dots to be connected if the author’s aim is to cast a wide net.

What I mean is, there is so (SO) much more to this subject than simply deciding whether or not to swallow a pill or allow a doctor to insert some device inside of you. Yes, yes we need to shout from the rooftops the truth about the indisputable physical harms being perpetrated against our sisters, but that’s not where we need to start.

Let’s Start Talking

Here’s my intention: I want to begin a conversation and continue it for a while. I want to offer a few thoughts/facts for you to ponder. And then let you walk away to digest it. I hope you’ll come back with questions because I’m going to try to cover a few more bases than I’ve seen covered recently, by the end of this blog post series. Continue reading

Triage In The Confessional: How M.A.S.H. Helped Me to Relate to the Divine Physician

As a kid growing up in the seventies, I watched more than a few episodes of M.A.S.H. Still young and inexperienced, my understanding of the war it portrayed was minimal. But with only a dozen or so channels to choose from, I regularly settled in front of our little screen and watched the hit show (catching just a fraction of the jokes and thankfully even less of the innuendo).
I remember well the regular scenes announcing the incoming choppers. The sweet voice of Radar and the whirr of helicopter blades still resonate in my consciousness.The characters would exit their leisure scenes and make the frenzied dash to the OR. Next came the line-up of hospital gurneys, broken bodies and tension-breaking dialogue as the characters feigned the chore of putting men back together.

as Father Mulcahy from
Probably because I am a cradle Catholic, I had an affinity for Father Mulcahy. His character seemed so gentle, sweet, honest and wholesome in contrast to the ever flirtatous nurses and lonely husbands. I had a frame of reference with which to identify with him. Of course, one couldn’t watch the series without forming an attachment to the character of Hawkeye. That compassionate, comedic soldier/surgeon, with his heart pinned to his sleeve, made war seem endurable.
MASH Goodbye.jpg
Alan Alda from Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
It was 1983 and I was twelve years old, the night they played the final Farewell episode. Alone in my bedroom, sprawled out on the brown, carpeted floor I turned the circular dial a few clicks to the right and tuned in to say goodbye. That episode was like none prior and it left me with the sour taste of the reality behind the props and make-believe sets. For the first time, I began to digest the horror of war and the very real toll it takes on the human psyche. To this day, I can’t shake some of the scenes I saw that night.
Last year at around this same time in Advent, we were sitting in church. Mass having just been celebrated, Monsignor Williams was announcing the upcoming events on the calendar when he invited us all to a penance service. Ever eloquent, his description began to shape an image which harkened back to my M.A.S.H. memories. Monsignor explained that the church was the great hospital, open to all the broken and wounded ( The penance service would host a small army of skilled healers (5-6 priests) who would set up triage stations (confessionals) throughout the building.
Images flooded in as he spoke. I thought about how sin breaks us like bones snapping under heavy artillery; how our anger and unfaithfulness rip holes in our relationships leaving behind bits of imbedded shrapnel.Visions of those young television characters stacked on stretchers crossed my mind as I considered our weakness when it comes to temptations. How many purposes of amendment do we make only to fall like rag dolls when the inevitable ambush of seduction comes. Like the sweaty, dirt smudged, bloodied figures I’d watched on M.A.S.H., we live our day to day lives stained by our transgressions.
However, while those skilled actors only pretended to put their patients back together, Monsignor was offering us real life first-aid. His triage stations could wash away the muck and mend the fractures. The skill level of the individual surgeons/priests wasn’t the determining factor in this hospital. The Divine Physician, through the hands of the confessional ministers, had the supernatural ability to bind up and resuscitate even the most desperate patients.
Not long after I watched the Farewell episode, my time in forced triage lines ended. At the time, I hadn’t made these connections and my only experiences with confession stemmed from the obligatory sessions the nuns orchestrated once a month. I remember standing shoulder to shoulder among my grade school peers, but I don’t have any recollection of any adults seeking help. Based on my experience, graduation from Catholic grammar school appeared synonymous with freedom from the confessional.
I shudder now to think about my years needlessly spent dragging myself around like a member of the walking dead, a wounded person enslaved by my own pride and ignorance. Thankfully, the grace of God finally managed to seep into the cracks of my hardened heart such that I felt that stirring desire to return like the prodigal son. I can’t even imagine what could have been the result of my eternal soul if I’d chosen to remain in my state of mortal sin.
As for my own children, I am trying hard to offer them a more complete understanding of our needs to be rebuilt constantly. We try to make a monthly habit (all of us) of heading to the confessional; however, it goes a bit further when they see not only their peers, but people of all ages and stages freely lined up for healing. No one is immune from the contagion of sin (even more so we adults). The bi-annual penance services in our diocese afford us that extra opportunity to witness the church in action in this broader capacity. Even without my M.A.S.H. references to draw from, it is a vision to behold long lines of familiar faces silently awaiting their turn to spill out their sorrows and sins and receive the outpouring of Christ’s absolution.
Indeed, the Father Mulcahy character was often depicted as tending to the spiritual needs of the dying which was certainly necessary. Monsignor and his fellow priests also have the duty to lead contrite hearts home from their deathbed, but it’s too bad Hawkeye’s character wasn’t regularly seen sitting in head-bowed posture beside a purple-stoled Father Mulcahy. The script for that scene wouldn’t have needed a single word of dialogue. Just imagine what a powerful and enduring statement such an image could have impressed on a whole generation.

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Thoughts on Michael Brown’s Ferguson Legacy: How Our Time in a Wild West Town Shaped My Opinion

Pop, Pop, Pop. Three swift, consecutive pops rang out in the afternoon air. My boys, still little back then, were crouched around the TV watching something on Disney while I plugged away on the computer. Not immediately sure what we’d just heard, I grew suspicious when our dogs, who normally yapped at ev-er-y-thing, sat frozen in silence. I headed over to a window and pushed back the blinds. Like a scene from some action flick I watched a hooded figure, brandishing a handgun, hastily cut through my neighbor’s yard.
In a panic, I ducked back and issued my confused kids away from our big, tall windows. We’d known that our neighborhood (the one that less than 50 years prior had been donned the Blue Blood section) was in a downward spiral, but not in my wildest imaginations had I ever conjured up a plan for dealing with gang warfare.
9-1-1 called, I watched and waited. The police were no strangers around those parts so their response time wasn’t always swift. But on that day it only took minutes for a small army of uniformed officers to file onto the block. After a bit of investigation, a detective clued me in on the details. Apparently, the masked man’s cross hairs had two neighboring drug dealers in sight.
Obviously the targeted residents were less than welcome neighbors, but still I couldn’t help but feel a sense of compassion for them that afternoon. In my mind, they were terrified at the knowledge that someone had just attempted to blow a hole through their flesh. I envisioned the two of them hiding out three houses down trying to map an escape route. Then reality smacked me across the face as I dared to step out onto my southern front porch. Looking in their directions I found the two black men gleefully busting a few moves on their lawn like they were celebrating a touchdown. Not a half an hour earlier a gunman plotted their demise and their best response was broad smiles and a victory dance.
I wanted to shake the smirks off of their idiotic faces. To ask them if they had a death wish. To remind them of the jeopardy they’d placed us all in because bullets always hit a target.
In that moment my compassion morphed into righteous anger.
Following the recent Ferguson story, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that sunny afternoon. You should know the town we lived in was a fair mix of races and income levels. And our neighborhood, the Old West End, was caught up somewhere in the center. Once charming southern homes with built-in butler’s pantries and broad porches had fallen into various states of disrepair as their aging owners faded and businesses headed elsewhere. The next generation had mostly fled the nest and so were apt to settle for a cheap deal to be rid of the trouble of up-keep on “mama’s house.” Those good real estate deals appealed to many, but not everyone had the same expectations for what living in community should entail.
Some families had money to invest in renovations and some (like us) did their best to simply maintain the old houses. However, a few others (like the stupid, laughing, human targets) seemed to make it their goal to turn their property into a grass-less, dirty junkyard with a revolving front door for criminals. Now I’m not the kinda homeowner who fancies matching mailboxes and subdivision codes, but I did take issue with adults peeing on their front lawn, the renter behind us who attempted to run his girlfriend over, and the street basketball players who tried to intimidate me as I drove our family van full of kids down our street (and those were just a few of the incidences we witnessed or were victim to).
In the near decade we lived there, I attended numerous town council meetings, countless neighborhood planning sessions and one “end the violence, take back our town” event. The majority saw the problem, but no one seemed to have the ability to reign it in. Council members clutched to their wallets and refused to upgrade their rental slums, the planning sessions were at times rife with in-fighting and the end violence event was nothing more than a preaching opportunity with a coffer to pass.
The last straw came when we returned home one evening to find a young black man peering in our windows. I confronted him only to be told he was “looking for Keisha.” After alerting my neighbors to be on the lookout, I began to relax and settle in when there was a knock on my door. It was an officer with the young man cuffed in the back of his cruiser. Apparently, since Keisha wasn’t in my house, he thought perhaps she was hiding in a neighbor’s shopping bags that happened to be in the neighbor’s open car.
A fierce rage swelled inside of me as I considered the events of that night. My children and quite frankly I were unsettled at the notion that a stranger was casing our house, inventorying our belongings. I was annoyed that my neighbor wasn’t free to unload his vehicle without the worry of an intruder following in his steps. And I was disgusted that a young, able-bodied man was setting himself up for a life of criminal behavior and all the consequences that entails. Not sure they’d ever been asked before, but I boldly requested that the officers set me face to face with their captive. They readily complied and I found myself a footstep away from my restrained, would-be burglar. Drawing from that deep, mother bear well inside of me, I roared a litany of accusations and admonishments. In my motherly hysteria I imagined his own mother and wondered if she knew the whereabouts and activities of her child. Profanities and racial statements weren’t part of my diatribe, there was no reason for ugly words or hatred, I wanted only to scare him straight. My finally statement included a threat, not a promise of violence, but a commitment to safeguard my family and keep him accountable should he ever venture into my neck of the woods again.
Michael Brown looked a lot like that young man and like the dancing idiots. Not because of the pigment of their skin, but because they all seemed to place themselves outside of the law. And to do so with a wanton disregard for justice or the common good. Brown took what did not belong to him and then unashamedly strutted down the middle of the street. He wasn’t a little punk juvenile with a half-formed conscience who hides his petty crime and tries hard to stifle those nagging-gut feelings that call him to guilt. No, Brown proudly clasped his ill-gotten goods in hand and called attention to himself. Furthermore, like the dancers with a death wish, Brown antagonized the opposition and gave no thought to the reality that bullets must land somewhere and actions have consequences.
Like those circle-talking public meetings, the media coverage of this case has done little to offer solid solutions or report unbiased truths. My local newscaster referred to the grand jury decision as “a failure to prosecute.” For whom was it a failure? I thought the grand jury was convened to review the evidence and make an unbiased decision, I didn’t know they had a “mission” to charge the officer and that anything less was a failure. Really, the failure comes on the part of those who enabled Brown by excusing his criminal behavior which ultimately led to his death.
The problems in Ferguson, just like in our old neighborhood, aren’t the result of race. Everyone one of us belongs to one overriding human race. The same Creator Who was responsible for breathing life into my soul, breathed into the eternal souls of the thief, our neighborhood drug dealers and Brown. We came into the world the same way and we’ll all be called from it some day. Nothing in our pigmentation set the scales at differing levels, we are equals.
I wish that Michael Brown had considered himself equal to the convenience store owner rather than choosing to place his desires above that man’s right to make a living. I wish that Brown had recognized that the street was public domain and that he wasn’t above the drivers for whom the roadways were constructed. I wish that he had counted Officer Wilson as an equal and had spoken with common courtesy and acted in obedience to the law. Brown should have considered his friend as an equal, too and understood the jeopardy he was placing him in. Unfortunately, everything in his behavior that fateful afternoon would seem to indicate that Michael Brown considered himself above, above the common good, above the commandments, above the law and above at least three other men.
Our problems erupt from our hearts. When one man thinks himself bigger, better, more worthy or entitled than he casts another down. Our society has increasingly pushed the Christian faith aside or corrupted its Truth and in doing so it has separated itself from the one and only solution to our dilemmas. Without recognizing our One Creator, we cannot see that we have one Father and as such we are equal. By rejecting the examples of Christ, we fail to understand that freely acting in humble service to our fellow man is the truest expression of charity and the ultimate source of our own fulfillment. If we want justice, if we want to change the course of our society then we need to get to the heart of the matter. We need to close our eyes to the exterior once and for all and look deeply within. Only then will we see one another as we truly are and only then, we will finally let go of the dividing tensions which have already claimed too many lives.
Like the poor man and Lazarus, I imagine Michael Brown would send back a message if he could. A warning to his brothers and sisters that all life is precious and that there is a right Judge Who reads the heart and casts the final verdict.

Life In a Big Brood: 10 Problems with Living in a Family of 10

When we started out, just the two of us, my husband and I were clueless. He is an only child and my siblings didn’t show up until I was 10 years old. We both were accustomed to the limelight, tranquility and praise, but we’d always longed for the joys of sibling companionship. My husband says he actually referred to himself as a lonely only when he was little.

Our heads in the clouds, we envisioned our own family would be a cross between the Von Trapps and the Bradys. Add twenty-two years and eight kids and our eyes have been opened. Oh, we wouldn’t trade one of our lovelies for the world (most days), but we concede that our initial plans were unrealistic.

In an attempt to set the record straight for starry-eyed newlyweds and lonely-only parents, I compiled a list of 10 big family problems.
1. Timing
Wake up, time to wake up,” I bellow up our two sets of stairs every morning. Yes, my kids own alarm clocks, but apparently my voice is the only sound capable of breaking the sleep barrier. The first countdown (of the day) commences approximately fifteen minutes prior to all planned endeavors. And this (my squawking) repeats in five minute intervals until about five minutes beyond the target time. It goes like this: while brushing my hair, I warn, “fifteen minutes to school.” With toothpaste dripping down my chin, I crow, “ten minutes.” After admonishing a still pajama-ed, bed-headed, stinky breathed child who’s reading a book, I shout, “FIVE MINUTES.” Ah yes, and the post countdown (“we’re LATE”) gears up exactly five minutes after we’ve failed to launch (which in a household of ten occurs more often than not). Because although I’ve educated my bright pupils myself, not one of them can tell time (unless the time involves a party, play date, or a guest’s anticipated arrival).
2. Laundry

I remember eyeing all those bare breasted women and half-naked children on the cover of Time Magazine when I was a kid and wondering why. Why didn’t their culture adopt some semblance of modesty and fashion. Didn’t they see the value in covering up their sensitive parts or donning some designer label jeans with a cute matching top? Now folding mountains of clothes I fantasize about a life without laundry (albeit after nursing eight babies I kinda like camouflaging my drooping bits). As if ten pairs of socks, shorts, t-shirts, underwear, and pj’s weren’t enough to handle daily, there’s also that one sweater that keeps turning up in the middle of the mound (you know, the one that still has the creases in it from the last time you washed and folded it which was yesterday).

3. Memories
With my first precious babies, I carefully documented their little lives in picture albums. From the scrunchy, red-faced newborn photo to the soccer team snapshots, every important moment was captured and neatly organized. With the invention of the cell phone and instagram, in addition to half a dozen more sweeties vying for my attention, I fell behind in my scrapbook endeavors. But in a big family that’s really not a problem (per say) because there’s always someone who will remember your history and exuberantly retell it for you (usually while in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner or when you bring your first real love home to meet your family). The real problem arises when your version of the facts (you know the honest-to-goodness facts that you remember because you always remember correctly) get twisted in a knot by everyone else who shares your surname.
4. Feast or Famine
We keep a small arsenal of snacks and non-perishables in our basement. Not because we are hardcore doomsdayers preparing for the end times, but because we have to keep some back stock to protect against the end-of month famine. Here’s how it goes down in the big family: the children cry out weakly, “Please, Sir, our porridge pot is empty and we’re starving (to death), can’t you please go fetch us some gruel?” At which time we head over to the local discount grocery and proceed to cram two carts filled to overflowing with cans, boxes, slabs and bunches of every kind of nutritious (cookies and marshmallows count, right?) ingredient. The feast begins on the drive home when those malnourished children tear into the first box of cheese crackers and eat all but the crumbs stuck on the inside bottom of the packaging before the van rolls into the driveway twenty minutes later. This jolly feasting continues for the next week until they’ve finished off the other two packages of cheese crackers, a dozen apples, a pound of salami, four sleeves of cookies, two loaves of bread, three varieties of cereal… Hence, how we end up back in a scene from Oliver Twist.
5. Volume
Back in the day (BC- before children), my husband and I laughed when we visited some relatives with kids because they had the TV cranked up to 55 in a 9X9 foot room. It didn’t take long for karma to swing back. We have no clue how anyone ever enjoyed a family movie before the advent of the rewind button. My husband makes feeble attempts to threaten the kids into silence when a race or ball game is on, but they can’t hear him over the barrage of “Who’s winning? Who’s that? What’d he just say?” Years ago we suspected our children must be deaf (especially our second daughter), so we had their hearing tested in the hopes of remedying their busted volume controls. Unfortunately, the doctor told us they all hear just fine.
6. Privacy
Perhaps, their volume control problems are to blame, but most of the time my brood are unable to hear my commands when spoken in a range below screaming. However, when the hubby and I are discussing vacation plans (while hiding in a closet on the opposite side of the house) you can be assured that some little busy-body will overhear us and chime in. Then there’s the bathroom. Precisely eight minutes into my morning shower my six year old must retrieve the only pair of pants he seems to own which (of course) are located in the laundry room that can only be reached through the bathroom. Most of the time, I’ve already got toddler company in there anyway, so what’s another family member, right? My husband freely empties his bowels without any pomp and circumstance, but as for me it is no wonder why all those commercials for fiber aid feature women. If I need to excuse myself, it is a game of distraction wherein I try to slink off unnoticed (tiptoeing down the hall and holding my breath while pulling the door shut in the hopes of masking any squeaks). 10% of the time I succeed in peeing in peace and solitude, 90% of the time someone decides it is of the utmost importance that I be located immediately to answer some burning question like “Can I have a puppy for Christmas?” 
7. Shoes
Summer sandals and sneakers, church shoes and winter boots, shoes that used to fit and the hand-me-downs that are still a size too big for anybody, shoes, shoes and more shoes. The shoe problem is less about the number of shoes around here and more about the fact that they rarely all make it onto the shoe rack (kinda like dirty clothes and the laundry baskets). They make it beside the rack, under it and next to it. We also find lone shoes under the table, behind the couch and strewn about the yard.
8. Seating
Seating in the big family is assigned. Be it in our big, white van or circled around our permanently extended dining room table, every body has his/her respective spot. Hours of discernment and mediation went into mapping the plan-o-grams so as to reduce the chance of conflict between adjoining parties. The schematics work (mostly), until a new person gets added, then it’s back to the drawing board.
9. Somebody to blame
Somebody” is ALWAYS to blame. Of course, “Somebody” is the invisible child who perpetrates every crime that can’t be directly attributed to a known offender. Rest assured, children are quite helpful when it comes to solving crimes (like who wrote on the wall or broke mom’s favorite coffee mug). Their detective work rivals that of Sherlock Holmes when asked, “Who did …?” But if it’s not sister or brother, it typically falls to that annoying Somebody kid (who to date has consistently avoided my capture).
10. Bedtime
And then there’s BEDTIME. We hear that is the time of day when people lay their heads down, close their eyes and drift off to peaceful slumber. We wouldn’t know because (did I mention?) we have eight children. I have vague memories of a time BC when I may have slept through the night without waking to nurse, comfort, redirect, reposition or talk with some family member. Truth be told, I’m so well trained now that even if no one disturbs my rest (which happens close to never) I still arouse long enough to pee (probably because it is the rare time I can be alone) and to double-check that everyone is still breathing. I’ve yet to actually laugh in the face of inquisitors who’ve dared ask, throughout the years, if our newborns are sleeping through the night, but I’d like to. Bedtime would be more aptly named Second-Wind-time since it seems as though our kiddos (who were drifting off to sleep during dinner) suddenly muster enough spare energy to run cackling through the house at warp speed.
Perhaps, if we enlisted a whistle like Captain Von Trapp, our children would report on time and line up in a tidy row. Maybe, I just need an Alice like the Bradys had to contend with Laundry Hill and the case of the missing left shoes. Yes, big families are rife with problems. But if I had it all to do over again, I (honestly) wouldn’t change a thing because along with the challenges come even more blessings. When I’m sitting elbow to elbow at our noisy dinner table, my cheeks aching from laughing too hard at the family story that’s being told for the umpteenth time, all the hard stuff counts for nothing.

We’ve Gone Batty Part 2: Outdoor Decor, Party Food, Pippi hair & a Headless Horseman

Halloween decorations
Our annual family-friendly Halloween bash was last weekend and the big day looms ahead, so we’re in full ghoulish mode around here. If you are just starting to pull together costumes or if you are looking for a few fresh ideas to add to your collection of haunted yard fun, we’ve got lots to share.

Throughout the years we’ve tried a variety of store bought tombstones, but most simply didn’t last. Typically the Styrofoam ones break easily when we attempt to replant them the second year. I’ve decided it is worth the bit of extra effort to cut headstones out of plywood. With a bit of painting and a stake attached they make the transition from yard to storage and back again with less damage.
This year I made an extra large coffin which my kids used in their haunted basement set-up during our party. It only required a large sheet of plywood, two hinges, screws and paint. Here it is next to the grim reaper I made several years ago.
paper towel roll candles
These non-flammable candles appeared in a discussion on Halloween Forum and we liked them so much we made several clusters. You’ll see one below on The Cooked Chef costume. With just some paper towel rolls, hot glue (for securing together and to create the appearance of wax drippings), black spray paint, newspaper (to stuff inside of candles) and battery operated tea lights, we made a frightful display that was safe around children.
We found lots of easy and icky food ideas on the web. Here are the ones we chose. Check out the original sites for instructions on how to make them.

Our Halloweenies were inspired by a Pin fromParty Bluprints

My original inspirations for the Witches’ Brooms came from The Kitchen Magpie. However, we swapped her peanut butter candies for chocolates that only contained caramels because we had invited a guest who had a severe peanut allergy.


Adding some plastic bugs to your dishes is a simple touch that makes even the ordinary look ghastly.

ghost cookies

I used a meringue recipe to create these ghosts and I added mint for flavoring.

Halloween roach snacks

My husband made these roaches by stuffing dates with cream cheese.


Our brain took shape from an idea found HERE

dirt and worms dessert


Who doesn’t love a big pile of dirt and worms? Some chocolate pudding, gummy worms and crushed chocolate cookies are all you need to whip up this tasty treat.
Halloween pumpkin throwing up guacamole
And who could turn down a vomiting pumpkin? We kept ours slightly less revolting than others we eyed online.
Halloween marshmallows
My son’s birthday minions became franken-marshmallows after I saw some on Gleam It Up.
My daughter chose to be Pippi Long-stocking this year, so I used a wire clothes hanger to get Pippi’s famous braids. First, I untwisted the hanger and then I shaped it around my daughter’s head. I used a wire cutter to trim the horizontal side wires to the desired length (the same length as my daughter’s hair when braided).

Pippi Longstocking braids

While she held the wire in place on the top of her head, I braided the hair around the extended wire (making sure to go over twice and under once with each section of braid). Lastly, I sprayed it well with hair spray and used two bobby pins to secure the bit of wire that crossed the top of her head. Other than having to walk sideways in crowds, the hair was a huge success (comfortable and remained intact).

My son wanted to be the Headless Horseman so after perusing some pictures online I brainstormed this get-up. Underneath I used a medium-sized box (cut a face- frame out of one longer side) with a bike helmet taped inside the box (the helmet protruded slightly through the face framing cut I had made in the box). The helmet insures the whole contraption stays in place. 
headless man costume
I hot glued half of a gallon- sized milk jug where the headless neck would be and two more ¼ pieces of another jug to define the shoulders. White cloth was glued on top of all the underpinnings. I chose a see-through cloth to hand down in front of my son’s face and chest. A thrift-store, men’s, button-down shirt was glued over the other fabric and I cut a notch out of the front so that only that see-through portion would hide the costume wearer. I lucked out and found the perfect long pirate jacket at a thrift-store, but you could simply use an old suit coat.
head on a platter costume
Our other daughter crafted her own costume. She used a box, some fabric, hot glue and disposable tableware to make the table scape. After inserting herself, in dad’s old culinary school clothes, she dubbed herself The Cooked Chef.
Be sure to check out my first We’ve Gone Batty post for more indoor decor ideas.

Homosexuals Have Gifts to Offer: Why that Headline Isn’t Newsworthy

On first read I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about the headline that bothered me so much. Homosexuals Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer the Christian Community was the highlighted statement being used to draw readers into the newly released documents coming out of the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. Of course, as one could imagine a firestorm has been lit on social media and I wasn’t really planning to jump in. But once I recognized just what had me so unnerved by that title, I decided weighing in on the matter was worth the risk of getting singed.
Homosexuals, that’s the word that has me uneasy. Because why must we identify a group of people by their sexual preference? I mean, it goes without saying (or at least it should) that every person has gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community. Yes, Bob, who may happen to be attracted to Larry, can sing in the choir or minister to the home-bound just as well as Joe, who’s married to Linda. So what does homosexuality or heterosexuality have to do with it? Nothing. Well, nothing insomuch as every person is created in the image of God and he has the ability to reflect that image (or not).
In truth, a Christian church which is not welcoming to all people has ceased to be genuinelyChristian. Last Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) was a fitting reminder that God invites all of us, good and bad alike, to join His celebration.
Of course, there was a catch in that gospel parable of the wedding feast. When the host’s A-listers RSVP’d “No, thanks, we’ve got other plans”, he sent his servants to invite everyone they happened to find milling about in the streets. The catch was that everyone who came had to leave their street clothes at the door and don the provided wedding garments. Those new duds symbolized the putting on of Christ and repentance from sin.
Now in the gospel parable, the host specifically instructed his servants to invite the good and the bad alike. He knew they all had gifts and qualities to offer. But the catch meant those bad guests had to make a change in order to avoid being cast outside. Of special note was the fact that the errant guest had ample chance to correct his mistake, but he chose to cling to his old ways and that is why he was escorted to the curb.
What bugs me about the headline is that it labels one group of sinners as though the rest of the Christian community is sinless or perhaps less sinful. The headline could just as easily read “Adulterers or Fornicators or Drunks or Liars or Thieves or Murderers Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer”- because they do. And newsflash everybody,those sinners (all of us) are already offering those gifts in our Christian communities. So why the headline if nothing has really changed?
Before I tell you my opinion of why, I first think we need to own up to some realities.
Firstly, a person who has same-sex attractions is not a sinner because of his/her feelings. Feelings don’t equal sin and thank goodness because I’d be in deeper trouble if they did. It takes acting on those attractions (feelings) or willfully entertaining the thoughts of them to commit a sin.
Secondly, if Joe the choir guy is cheating on his wife then he is an adulterer and his sin is just as grievous as Bob’s should Bob be acting on his homosexual attractions. Yeah, and this applies to Joe’s porn habit, too.
Thirdly, as a teacher of Natural Family Planning (and a repentant sinner myself – who is still a work in progress), I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The majority of couples presenting for marriage in the Catholic Church are either already living together and/or are engaging in premarital sex. And nearly all of them will sterilize their sexual unions during part or throughout their married lives.
Huh? What’s the connection, you’re wondering. Well, the real issue here is sin and man’s propensity for it and enslavement to it. All those couples signed up for Pre-Cana who are cohabiting and/or engaging in sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage, they are just as guilty as an adulterous Joe or a homosexually active Bob.
Focusing on sexual sin here, we need to acknowledge that homosexual acts are no more sinful than all of the other acts which violate the marriage covenant. Real love, true, Christ-like love has requirements just like the wedding feast did. In order for any sexual act to be rightly ordered according to God’s natural law it must be both unitive and potentially procreative. So, the homosexual act never has any chance of meeting those ends; therefore, it is a sin. But sex outside of the sacrament of marriage is also a violation of the requirements because the union, while physically present, isn’t sacramentally (or really even mentally) present. Sexual intimacy (given freely, faithfully and fruitfully) within a sacramental marriage is the physical expression of the marriage covenant made between one man, one woman and God. It is a reenactment, so to speak, of the vows and promises made to and before God. Couples who are sacramentally united, but who willfully choose to unnaturally thwart the procreative ends of the marital embrace, are also culpable of violating the requirements of sincere, Christ-like love.
How come then that headlines didn’t point out the gifts those sinners bring to the church? Is it because we’ve already recognized their potential and welcomed it, but we are only just now coming to the realization that homosexuals present no greater challenge than do every other type of sinner sitting in the pews? I think we have to concede that it was nothing more than a provocative label meant to incite more discussion, for the better or the worse.
I think the real point that needs to be made is that we are all sinners and we should all be striving to break our self-imposed chains. That label in the headline seems more like a proud proclamation of one particular sin. We are all invited guests (every lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, in-law hating, drunken, drug addicted, gluttonous, vain, prideful one of us), but we have to strip off our worldliness (our brokenness) and put on the garment of Christ.
Indeed, if the sinner wasn’t welcomed, the Church would be a vacant building and the Body of Christ would be missing Its hands and feet. But if the sinner passes through the Church doors unchanged (happily clinging to his label/sin), then heaven could end up with one less invited guest in attendance.

We’ve Gone Batty: Get Inspired for Halloween

halloween batsIt’s that time of year when we here in Brelinskyville go batty for all things Halloween. Somewhere along the line we developed a ghoulish fascination with ghosts and goblins, creepies and crawlies. Maybe it’s my fond childhood memories of scouting the neighborhood with a pillow case full of sweet loot or perhaps the home made haunted houses in my parents’ basement were the catalyst for my 
family’s love of Halloween fun.

Whatever the source my kids beg for the day when they can haul the decorations from the attic and begin planning for the annual party. I held out as long as I could this year (since they starting asking in early September), but now that the month of October has officially arrived we’ve begun the process of halloweenifying our home.

I try to focus on grouping items on the mantle or a side table, like a zombie theme with chop sticks, a Chinese take-out box, a sign and some body parts. And none of these props costs an arm and a leg (or a brain or a heart) because we either made them, found them in a dollar store or purchased them on the discount rack at the end of a previous season.


It’s the kids’ job to plan and decorate the haunted basement which always seems to entail a lot of bickering, but somehow they always pull it together in the end without anyone completely losing their head.
forget about straightening those crooking paintings on the wall, they add to the effect

 Ay matey, we keep a couple boxes full of costumes and costume parts. I’m not a fan of spending our budget on such limited wear items, but every now and again I’ve been inspired to sew a werewolf or Super Hero. Most of the time, the kids rummage through the pieces we’ve inherited or stockpiled and they create something all new.

I love bats because what could be easier to fill up your open spaces. A few pieces of black poster board and a pair of scissors is all that’s needed to turn your house into a bat cave the likes of which even Batman couldn’t outdo.

I used a staple gun to fasten fishing line on the backs of these plastic bats then I drape them over ceiling fans
Don’t forget to check back soon to see our outdoor decorating… 

There’s No Room for Envy in a Grateful Heart

The house was buzzing with the usual school morning routines. There was foot traffic up and down the stairs and hallway, dishes being banged and stacked, and water pouring through the faucets. The dog was rubbing against every available leg and a rooster was crowing in the distance as the clock clicked passed 8:30.
In an attempt to corral my students to their assigned seats around the table, I grabbed my wooden beads and began that familiar recitation of the rosary. Like the Pied Piper’s entrancing tune, my rhythmic words drew my children forth one by one.

Seated on the low hearth, my bent legs formed an easy-to-reach perch which my 14 month old found irresistible. Every other minute he would race toward me (with a big, beaming grin) as I prayed and then throw his chubby leg onto mine. Without exchanging words, he made his intentions clear. I appeased his repeated attempts to climb unto my open lap by offering him the gentle extra lift he needed to shimmy his soft body into balance. Seconds after he’d abandon me and toddle off. By the third sorrowful mystery, he’d made his way up and down, around the table and back again no less than a half dozen times.
Finally, his attention flitted in another direction and he wandered toward our dog and some missed crumb he felt needed investigating. My six year old saw the opportunity he’d been waiting for, so he carried his beads and himself in my direction.
Of course, keeping my focus on the mysteries of the rosary was difficult (as usual), but who could turn down a little more snuggling? Just as the first grader straddled my lap and a new Hail Mary crossed my lips, the toddler rounded the table again and cast a long, hard look in my direction.
His eyes widened and his thoughts flashed in them. That place he’d left empty (his lap) was filled and he wasn’t happy. With eyes locked on the target, he hurried toward the hearth as fast as his fat, naked feet could move him and then reached out to yank his big brother’s shirt. Maybe it was the grace of the prayers or maybe my six year old just possesses understanding beyond his years, but he easily surrendered to the chubby fisted aggressor and took a seat on the bench.

It wasn’t surprising really, considering his age, but it was the first time I’d seen the hot spark of envy well up with such intensity in this littlest one. That quick, accusing glance he’d shot in my direction as well as his determination to unseat his competition were such visceral responses.

Having only lived a little more than a year “on the outside,” he’s not old enough to have to worry about the rat race or to be concerned with what the Joneses are keeping up on, but still it’s in there. That deep-seated vice of envy is rooted in his human fallenness.
I saw a picture posted on my social media feed the other day. It caught the excitement on the face of a woman opening the latest (and self-proclaimed greatest) cell phone. News reports stated that people spent hours lined up outside stores to ensure that they would be among the first to get their hands on the newest tech gadget.It’s doubtful that the purchasers were actually fulfilling a need for a new phone; more likely they’d been happily texting away on their old phones before they caught wind of the rumor that someone else might upgrade before them.
How many times I’ve arranged some fun field trip to the park with friends only to get bombarded with whining pleas for more time or a newer venue. Rather than enjoy the giant climbing structure, swing into the atmosphere, or race the length of the open spaces with the present friend, the focus shifts to some imagined play date which is always somehow less boring.
And if I had to do some self examining, I’d too easily be able to identify my own weakness here. All those social media pictures of beaming children posed next to Mickey Mouse or blogger tales of posts gone viral inspire me to envy, too.
There’s so much insight to be gained from the gospel story of the laborers who came late in the day (Mt 20: 1-16) when I think about our struggles with this vice. The landowner in the parable was a generous employer who spent his day seeking out unused laborers. Throughout the daylight hours, from early morning to just before closing time, he hired men to work in his fields. Imagine the gratitude of the guy who’d been over-looked all day when the employer finally hired him.
Of course, those who’d worked the longest assumed they would be paid a greater share. They deserved the most in their estimation and I’d have to say I would have agreed. Then came the shock and grumbling when they discovered that every man, no matter how late he was in arriving, got paid the exact same amount.
The employer, however, reminded the disgruntled workers that he paid them according to the agreement. They were not cheated. The landowner was free to disperse his money as he saw fit and he chose to be generous.
The story doesn’t say, but we might also consider that the late-to-arrive workers may have allowed the sweaty, tired, morning workers a bit of relief. Perhaps, some of the first to arrive were working at a slower pace when the reinforcements came in with some fresh perspective and energy. Regardless, the landowner, like God, was merciful and generous and didn’t limit his charity.
Really, who were the workers to lay claim to the landowner’s money? It belonged to him and he was free to give it as he saw fit. Maybe those late arrivals, who still had families to provide for, were passed over all day because they looked weaker or less desirable. The employer, however, recognized their individual dignity and need.
Certainly all that fussing could have been avoided if only the landowner had divided up the wages in secret. Had he paid the early workers first and then sent them away, they would have been none-the-wiser about the pay scale. That would have satisfied their human desire for “equality.” And by equality I mean our human longing to get what we think we (apart from everyone else) deserve and need, as opposed to what God knows is necessary for our sanctification.
Think of the gratitude of the late comer when he carried that money home and laid it on the table. The anxiety he’d felt throughout the day, wondering how he’d feed his family, had vanished. The man who’d felt cheated probably forgot to be thankful and instead counted his coins with resentment even though he, too, could buy what was needed from the market.
It really is amazing how easily any situation can be transformed by humility and gratitude. Although we can’t afford a trip to Disney nowadays, we were blessed with a few days at the beach during the off-season. My husband could only share part of the time with us which meant I was on single mom duty. The forecast called for dismal weather each day and I spend the first night in the rental tossing and turning on an uncomfortable pull-out couch with a disoriented toddler. How easily I could have allowed myself to become a grumpy complainer, but I decided to consciously savor the blessings.
With that baby (who now couldn’t keep his eyes open after our restless night) propped against my chest as I sat in the sand with the water lapping up around us, I took the time to thank God for every bit of it. I thanked Him for the rain which stayed at bay that morning, for the warm water and the rolling clouds which 

lessened the sun’s intensity. I told Him how grateful I was for these children in my care, for the opportunity to wake with a needy little one and for the chance to rest on the edge of His ocean. Not exactly sure how many blessings I counted that morning or each one after it, but they were enough to fill my heart with contentment and joy and wash away my fantasies of being anywhere else.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting some things: a lovely getaway, a gadget that helps get your work done faster, a park train ride with your buddy or a seat on mama’s lap. The problems come when we lose sight of what we already have or we second-guess what God in His all-knowing wisdom and limitless mercy deigns to give to us.
Hopefully, in time (and with maturity) my youngest ones will learn to say thank you more often than they say “but I just want/need…” I suppose that parable is a good reminder for me to do better as well. Rather than look over the fence (or on my social media feeds) to see what the other workers are receiving, I am going to count my daily blessings and be grateful for the abundance showered upon me.

Summertime Sonnet by Nikolai Brelinsky

This is an original work written by my 17yo son. With the end of summer fast approaching (too fast as far as I am concerned), I thought his sonnet was a perfect reminder to slow down and enjoy the last days of the season.
Sipping a glass of lemonade outside
The proud screen-door hinges standing open wide
Porch swing swaying lazily, doing its chore
A couple basks in the season they adore

The summer’s sun sends its sharpened beams
T’wards a boy adrift in hammocking dreams
Green grass grows gauntly throughout the day long
The birds in their trees singing high with song
Buzzing cicadas whine all afternoon
At evening, the moths will search for the moon
Bumble and honey bees dance on the flow’rs
Cumulonimbi will bless them with show’rs
When days pass by long and nights are slept fast
This season, we know, will not always last
This summer; a time of growth and good cheer
Lasts only a fourth of every year

A Little Reminder That Life is Good

When my older boys were little I made Halloween costumes (from sewing Buzz Lightyear to creating a bull out of a cardboard box), threw themed birthday parties (Veggie Tales and Sea Creatures), paper-mached a pinata (that turned out to be nearly indestructible), and baked birthday cakes (a school bus). Eight kiddos later and I sometimes feel a bit of guilt because my crafty skills are more often constrained by time.
Lately, I have to admit I feel downright aggravated with myself.

Between juggling home school lessons, tending to baby and coordinating teen work/commitment schedules, all those Pinterest ideas are little more than eye candy. Just when I contemplate reaching for the glue gun or sewing machine, I see the unmade bed, the unbrushed hair, and the fingerprints. A thousand other chores bellow for my attention.

Even finding time to write a post had become a hassle as of late. Inspiration rises to the surface only to be squelched by a cry or a “Mom, I need your help.”
But tonight when I sat down to save pictures from my camera, I discovered all these happy moments that we’ve been wracking up together. And I am reminded that I am my own worst critic because life in this big brood can’t be all that bad if the measure of judgment is metered out in smiles. 


The birthday bonanza lasts from late March through September and everyone gets to wear my homemade birthday hat. Note the sticky papered age tags so I can keep track.
Lilia got to spend her birthday with dogs, lots of dogs. Oh yeah and Aunt Tammy, too!

Nikolai getting help from his baby bro.

This is the 15 year old boy version of a smile. I’ll take it.

Nothing says “We had fun” like dirty, bare feet!
Pierce turned 18 and got his driver’s license. He promptly drove out alone to buy his siblings lunch in celebration.

Okay, so Pinterest does get credit for this idea. I simply had to find the time to give my 6 year old a surprise minion cake.
marshmallow minions

So I didn’t make the pinata, but I don’t think anyone cared where the candy was raining from.

Daddy and the boys at the race.
Indeed LIFE is GOOD!