Thursday, March 27, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Lenten times

photo from one of the  pinterest boards listed below
Lent and Spring
It's turning out to be a wonderfully beneficial lent despite some of our fumbles. 
On a family trip last Friday as we were basking in the company of family members we don't get to see but every few months, we all cheerfully, socially took ourselves to a Chinese restaurant and proceeded to blithely eat teriyaki beef, honey chicken, and even desert.  We realized the next morning that we had broken Lenten sacrifices  - and on a Friday in lent.
I suppose some (maybe most?) people would say you have to be crazy to admit to liking lent.  But, I'm a rebel in areas like this so I'll say that I love lent.  I love the stretching I feel take place in myself and this year is really making it sting.  But there's joy in it, as only God can make happen.
However, I think easily everyone joins me in welcoming Spring this year!
Thank God for the Seasons.
Lenten Pinterest Boards  I am loving...
Spring Break/Spring Cleaning
I always begin Spring cleaning when we are home from school for spring break.  Some years I am more successful that other years.  This year was a good one. 
*First, I pulled out my clipboard with my cleaning list. 
*Secondly, I pulled the bucket of cleaning supplies (that I love!) out and checked for good gloves. 
*Third, I put on music. 
The weather was beautifully, lusciously spring like so I wanted to get us out of the house in the afternoons. Each morning, save one, I gave the kids their tasks right after breakfast and I got busy tackling mine.  In the end, I cleaned a storage shed, two closets, took 10 big bags to Goodwill, and the van got a once over that makes it look like humans travel in it now.
I like to be able to clean
Again, I'm a bit of a rebel in admitting to this. ~smile~ And I enjoy laundry.  I don't enjoy the constancy of either so much, but I  have found ways to enjoy the tasks themselves when I've set myself up for success - which usually means having the supplies I like, and the products I like.  Which is why I loved Rachel Balducci's post on laundry.
Babies are a gift - even when they're not yours
God bless little Jett and London
I became an aunt again (for the 17th and 18th times) on St. Patrick's day.  My cute, cute, cute little niece and nephew were born. Both are thriving at a bouncing 5 lbs. each which I will proudly mention is a very good birth weight for twins.  They are my youngest sisters' first two children which still throws me since I practically half raised her :)  So, we packed up the van and headed to sunny Oklahoma to see them last Friday and hold those babies.  It was a fun weekend trip, hence our forgetting lent on Friday night.
And my sis still looks like a beauty (maybe more so) after giving birth to her sweet babies.
Speaking of babies...
My own "babies", also twins, are receiving their first sacrament of reconciliation on Sunday.   I thrill over these kinds of milestones in their faith lives and just thank God so much for our rich faith.
Evangelizing can be Easy
If you actually talk to your kids in public apparently it draws attention and is seen as a radical form of behavior.  We stopped in for ice cream last Sunday after Mass, and like always we chatted our way through our treat.  We were approached twice by people telling us how nice it was to see a family talking and enjoying each other with not an electronic device in sight.  I hadn't even thought about it because at home it's a given that if we're at the table there are no devices allowed.  But one man even said he wanted to start trying that with his children.  I felt awesomely surprised that we had shown something of a good example to the public.  Who knew? 
I am linked with all the other 7 Quick Takes at 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Angel Guardian You came through Again

I love angels - especially the Guardians. 
I taught my children the Guardian Angel prayer the minute they could begin to talk.  I really valued the notion of each of them having their very own guardians.  That was when life was still fairly untouched by the serious kind of suffering. It was full of promise. 
I could have had no inkling of an idea then how very much all of us would come to need those very angels.

When life took some pretty serious and painful turns, however, I began to really live out the belief in the aid of angelic beings. I came to see that I could really and truly ask for help from them and actually get real and often immediate help for myself, or more importantly, for my children.
I have a handful of real and poignant angel stories and I will share those.  Tonight I am only reporting this most recent intervention.  This one from my 2nd oldest son's angel.  It amazes me that even in the trivial, ordinary matters, such as soccer, they are ever at our sides to help.

There was absolutely nothing I could say or do the other evening to help my son go through one of those growing up moments in life.  He was aching inside, and I could feel it.  He was about to give up playing his favorite sport - soccer.  In his heart, he didn't want to quit playing I could sense.  My mom radar was sounding alert.   I was trying to encourage him to stick out the season because he had made a commitment and commitments are important to honor.  This is the boy who begs to play a fall and a spring season of soccer for the last two years. 
I watched him drag himself out to the soccer field for the third time in 3 weeks. 

The second time, there he was, on the floor tying up his soccer cleats with a furrow in his brow.  This boy, quiet and strong at the same time.  Normally, he would not be so pensive on the way out to soccer practice - loving the sport as he does.  He is an exceptionally good player for 9 years of age.  He looks up and asks if I can call the coach and tell him that he is sick and can't come to practice.  I reply that it isn't the truth therefore it would be wrong to lie .  He asks if he can skip practice then without any explanation to the coach.  I remind him that he has made a commitment to the team and no practice means no playing in the games.  He grudgingly gathers his ball and glumly follows me out the door to practice.

I am perplexed because this is not like him at all.  Beyond  Minecraft and Legos, soccer is pretty much at the top of his favorite activities.  I watch him at practice and he really doesn't play much.  Hangs back, won't go for the ball, won't engage in helping teammates maneuver toward the goal.  Weird.  Oh, I think.  That's it, he's coming down with something and doesn't feel good.  I feel guilty for making him go to practice.

But no, when we get home he has no fever and says he doesn't feel sick.  But he doesn't want to play soccer anymore.  Why?  I ask.  He says his mind isn't on it anymore.  Flare of worry rises up in me.  I decide not to make a big issue of it, so I casually say "oh ok.  Any reason in particular you want to quit?"  He tells me he is a dweeb at soccer.  ????   I remind him that when he works hard in a practice or game, he's one of the best players on the field.  "Yeah, I used to be",  he says, "but that really tall boy on my team said I'm a skinny dweeb and that I stink at kicking.  So I think I'll just quit." he says.
I tell him (calmly) that he can't let negative people control him like that...  That the  boy was probably being overly competitive and it caused him to be unkind.  To which he replies, "well, I kind of already thought I was no good anyway." 
Ouch.  Arrow to my heart.
He has never voiced anything like this before.  But this is a boy who doesn't have his dad around much.  It's a void I worry about. When he began playing sports I noticed he began to really feel that absence.
Back to the soccer field... I sat there at a good distance so as not to hover or embarrass.  I watched more closely this week.  Sure enough, this other little boy was on fire with competition with JP.  He tried tripping him, and wouldn't pass the ball to him and yes, there were several insults he yelled out.  He had found JP's Achilles heel- humiliation - and he was going to use it.  The coach tried calling the little boy out on it, but this only furthered JP's humiliation.  He wouldn't play much. He shut down for the most part. 
I didn't know what to do. In quiet desperation to be able to help JP the only way I could, I began praying to his guardian angel - "please help him stand up and play his best - please help him not take this boy too seriously - please protect his sense of sportsmanship and his love for the game." 
I didn't know what to pray for exactly.  I have never really prayed so fervently for something seemingly not urgent. 
After a few minutes I saw the fire light up in JP's eyes and he decided he had had enough and he was going to play soccer hell or high water.  He began to play his best.  The rest of practice I watched him ignore the other boy and play. He ended by getting praised by the coaches for hitting 3 goals.
Walking back to the van afterwards I told him he looked good out there.  He said, "I decided to show myself that I don't stink at kicking.  And I guess I don't."

 Prayer answered. 
Way to go kiddo.
Thank you dear angel.


Monday, March 3, 2014

What's it all for?

We had an unexpected snow day called today. So we're all home and happily finding MUCH to keep us busy.  But, in a weird way, what a treat to be able to have extra time to get some of the household work accomplished without having to do it all in the evening. 
As yesterday's cold and snow didn't seem to be as bad as the weathermen predicted I really had no expectation at all for a snow day from school.  Those huge, beautiful snowflakes that fell most of the afternoon didn't accumulate into serious amounts of snow.  But as evening was setting in, there came the e-mails - school was off due to dangerous wind chills and anticipated snow throughout the night.  The kids were thrilled (high fiving, fist pumping- thrilled). Truthfully, so was I.
I went ahead and got up on time this morning at my usual waking time because I didn't want to totally break routine.  Since no one had to be out the door by any particular time, I let the kids sleep until 8:30. 
Translation - luxurious amounts of morning quiet!
I was enjoying it immensely but I noticed I wasn't inclined to pray as much as just sit there and piddle and mess with my calendar app.  I just felt like I needed some 'me time'.  Some unstructured, no demands time.
I kept trying to muster up my will to pray morning prayer but I kept finding one thing after another to stall myself.
As I became aware of some kind of force of laziness making me not want to pray, I said to myself that I would at least pray the morning offering and just leave it at that.  At least then, the Lord had been offered everything in my whole day as a prayer.
I went and poured one more cup of coffee.  I sat down and sipped at it and then resolved to set it down and prayed my morning offering.
Then I prayed the opening prayer (Glory Be) for morning prayer in the Magnificat.
Then I glanced at the morning hymn.  Beautiful.
Then I opened up my browser and played my new favorite sacred music - "Lent at Ephesus" from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  I felt the 'force' of lazy selfishness begin to let go of me as a calm and prayerfulness began to replace it.
I finished morning prayer. Then I prayed for some special people and concerns.  I then prayed the ongoing novena I pray almost everyday.
Done.  Wow. I felt grounded as I went back to my calendar app and planned out the day. 
I was no longer wondering about the question that had popped into my head as I had begun perusing my calendar the 1st time... "Oh brother, what's all this work, demands, and constant service all for anyway?"  
It's all for God's greater glory when given to Him for that reason.  Sense of purpose restored. 
And it all started with a dutifully said Morning Offering.
Lesson learned.  God is good.

Friday, February 28, 2014

7 QT's ~ The Rosary and Our Family Life


Mary is the easiest, shortest way to keep myself and my family anchored in Christ. 
She is a shield against the craze of the culture.
(photo from Pinterest)
 It's no secret that these are difficult days for families, marriages, and children. There's so much pressure, busy-ness, overwhelming demands at times.  The rosary is the surest ally (and weapon) a woman has for her family (after the Mass).  I love the rosary.  I receive a deep sense of calmness and reassurance as I pray, but even more still, power and peace.  There is great power there.  I have a very hard time praying 5 decades in one day however.  But I am faithful to at least 1 decade a day.  Sometimes 2 or 3 depending on how the days demands went.
The resulting blessings we have received are probably not always apparent to others, but have brought huge milestones for our family's well-being and healing.  There is often inexplicable peace as well.

My alarm goes off pretty early.  My favorite Pandora station begins playing 15 minutes earlier than when I need to get up so I can wake up slowly.  I begin my rosary during that 15 minutes while I am still in bed, saying the apostles creed, the 1st our Father, the 3 hail Mary's, and the glory be.  After I am up and dressed I pray morning prayer and finish the decade with the mystery then.  It may seem a lazy method but it works for my life.  I'm to the point now where I don't feel a day is complete without praying at least 1 decade.  I can't help but notice the beneficial amount of grace is so much greater on the days I am faithful to pray at least that 1 precious decade.
Sunday evenings the kids will pray with me.  Sometimes during the week even, when one or the other of the kids is feeling the need to seek out some one on one time with mom or they have a concern, they will ask to pray the rosary with me.  I really feel the blessing in that moment.

During those nights of restless sleeplessness when I wake up in the middle of the night trying to solve the world's problems or thinking about my children's best life possible I always end up reaching over to my nightstand and picking up my rosary.  I will give it a few minutes before I begin praying in order to focus my mind so the prayer is allowed to bring peace.  Then I begin praying the rosary and it's like having that best friend you can call up in the middle of the night to receive solace from.  I don't remember much after the first decade, so I assume I fall back to sleep pretty quickly.  It will only be in heaven, I feel, that I will know for sure what God does with those nocturnal rosaries.  But I do feel like my family benefits from each and every one.  Hopefully others too.


Each Hail Mary prayed is like a rose for Mary (some say for a crown, some say for a bouquet).  She returns those roses. Believe me, she does.  Sometimes astonishingly.  Some of the "roses" we've received have been  protections from situations that were very difficult, illnesses healed, a certain peace that pervaded amidst suffering. There has been growth in virtues in areas that were formerly very difficult. Warmth and love among us, and any number of timely helps. There are crazy days and/or moments which she has calmed. There are behaviors from children that she has settled and resolved. Not to mention the pervasive feeling I get that Mary has our back everyday and in every circumstance.


Whatever I need she will give me.  If I need courage, she's generous.  If I need peace, she knows just how.  If I need patience, apparently she gives me some from her endless supply.  If I need strength, she comes quickly.  And when I don't know what I need, she knows. She does not fail.


Her images are throughout my house (along with an icon of an angel and a beautifully magnetic painting of Jesus and His Sacred Heart).  When I need just that moment of quiet and sanity I can literally find her image almost anywhere in our home.  I will just quickly glance over and see her face and remember to pray a quick prayer.  Her image as 'Queen of Peace' (a beautiful icon) sits on my kitchen counter and seems to be particularly efficacious since I am in that room so often at that wicked hour of day when the family is hungry and restless and I am trying to make dinner (and there can be anything but peace).  She is so often the calm in the chaos.


And, God forbid, at those times in life when the heart wrenching events that can happen have lain their suffocating weight upon my heart and our life she has been a swift, constant, and powerful ally.  When I didn't know if I could make it another day, she was there.  When things were flying at me from every direction and at top speed with violent force I found her tranquil sea and kept afloat.

The family placed under Her Mantle will whether the storms - the little daily ones, those medium, hurtful and stressful ones, and, Heaven help us, those shockingly awful ones - should they so happen.

The Mother of God is true to her word and she will fight for you and yours.

(These 7 quick takes are linked to many others at

Friday, January 31, 2014

Maintaining Peace and Reasons for Happiness - 7 Quick Takes

As they say, there is Always something to be grateful for.
Like the fact that in my part of the Midwest we have not suffered from the terrible weather like so many areas of the country have.
Prayers for the unprepared southerners who endured this mess.  And God bless the family who brought their newest little girl into the world in their vehicle on that Atlanta highway.  Cannot imagine.
As each day of this very, very cold winter goes by I am trying to have gratitude that it has not been as bad here as it could have been.  We really haven't had any snow or ice since right before Christmas.  Cold, yes, but no mess.  That could be changing this weekend however.
Taking Notice

I came out of a meeting of catholic school parents last evening to a cold but stunning night sky.  I was kind of walking slowly to the van, sauntering even, because I could sense a stillness and peace (and I wasn't much looking forward to homework checking either).  My eyes beheld such a scene of nighttime beauty as hundreds of thousands of stars shone their hope.  It gave me pause in which I imagined great things.  It was the darkness of that sky which enabled those stars to shine so brilliantly.  No matter the darkness we are all encountering in our world, the light shines brighter still.
" Never be in a hurry; Do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.  Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."
-- St. Frances de Sales
The life of a mother does not lend itself to this kind of tranquility.  I used to think that.  About a year ago, however, upon reading this quote in a book, I decided to start trying really hard to stop rushing about so much and to stop rushing the kids as well. I didn't do this as much when they were all little. So, I made various efforts in this regard, which is it's own post maybe.  Although, I have not had perfect success because I am not a perfect person, I can say the rewards of the efforts have been huge.  It required leaving multi-tasking behind, but I have not regretted making these efforts.  The kids have responded positively as well. Even with unavoidably packed days, more days than not, it has been possible to go a bit slower and breathe more deeply.

Thanking God for Catholic Schools

Catholic Schools Week was this week and it was a time for being appreciative all over again for the kids' wonderful, faithful Catholic school.  When so many Catholic schools are closing around the nation we are beyond fortunate in our diocese to have thriving Catholic education that is affordable due to our system of stewardship. Hearing my very "all boy" 9 year old son, JP, tell about how he prayed in adoration for his twin sister who was home sick drove it home for me that we are so blessed to have this kind of education available.

 Go RCS Ravens!


Speaking of the school, it has been a funny, albeit, touching situation watching 12 year old daughter, BC, play basketball with her team this winter.   These girls have really done well considering this is their first year playing.  But, they are such caring girls that while playing they have been known to stop plays to check on a teammate who might have gotten hurt or shaken up or even to help a member of the other team up off the floor.  They got called out on this by a referee finally and they looked at him, shocked, that he could be so callous and non-understanding.  What's the big deal if the game was temporarily stalled anyway?  Sheesh - so their demeanors seemed to say. lol  Oh well, in the long run it's their virtue they'll need more than an aggressive 6th grade season.  That said, they're going into the tournament in 2nd place  :)


Around the house this weekend: 

~ 1st Saturday confession and meditation. Pizza and movie night after. 

~ picking up a couple of new candles and resupplying the tea.  There's still a lot of winter left and I rely on these kind of perk-ups.  I don't do well with too many of the gray days.

~ working on my closet / mudroom project some more.  I am adding the baskets this weekend and deciding what will and will not be allowed inside them.
~  giving away shoes I haven't worn since I went through a Bjorn phase. 
~ re-organizing the linen closet so the kids will stop grabbing sheets to dry off with after showers just because they don't want to pull them out of the way to find the towels.

~ making some fun food for a Superbowl Watch night...  bbq whiskey meatballs, buffalo chicken bites (both from Pioneer Woman's Holiday Cookbook) and some kind of cake which was Opa's  request.  We are going for Denver simply because one of my brothers and his family live in the Denver area.  Also, my son, JP, is a big Peyton Manning fan. 

Speaking of the Denver Broncos, the Archbishop of Denver is holding Mass with them before the game.  Very cool.  Watch out Seahawks.


Keeping Peace Quote

"Acquiring and maintaining interior peace, which is impossible without prayer, should consequently be considered a priority for everybody, above all for those who claim to want to do good for their neighbor.  Otherwise, more often than not they would simply be communicating their own restlessness and distress."
Fr. Jacques Philippe

In my life, at this season, I think most directly of my family as my neighbor.  I cannot give them what I do not have.  If I want their peace, and what mother doesn't, then it needs to live in me first.

Linked with Jennifer at


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter-time Seven Quick Takes

Winter - at least it can be pretty and there's hot tea
A little late posting this week...I'm not being a very faithful blogger as of yet, I'm afraid. 
 January has been so bitterly cold this year but we've felt the warmth of blessings and minor miracles.  Wednesday, the 22nd, we awoke to frosty windows painting lace etched designs with soft strains of morning sun shimmering through.  It was enough to remind me of God's presence for a brief, quiet moment.  Before "mom this or mom that".  Our morning went as usual - hustle and bustle of breakfast, teeth brushing, gathering backpacks and quick morning prayers. Before long we were dressed, bundled up in wools, scarves, gloves and ready to leave for our day.  We discussed the March for life and how much colder the marchers must be!  We decided to try to make some form of participation with our brothers and sisters in DC (as well as our own state capital gatherers).  Prayers were offered for the pro-life warriors and we began thinking of a sacrifice we could make to offer for the intention of protection of these littlest lives.  The following video is stirring and will make you feel so proud of our Christian brothers and sisters fighting the good fight!
This was one of our 9 buses that went from our diocese
When I remember to thank God again
When evening fell and we were all gathered back at home we decided to try to pull up some of the coverage on the internet.  So after dinner and dishes we went to you-tube and found that a big theme this year was adoption.  It was an  eye-misting-surprising- lump in the throat moment when MT says "our whole family is here because of adoption!"  As if she had just then realized that ;).
It's true, all four of these children of mine were inside an abortion clinic at one point or another in-utero before being saved by compassionate, praying people who helped the birth mothers see that there was another solution.  I still try to remember to pray often for their birth mothers.

They do grow fast - live every moment
My twins, MT and JP, turned 9 last Friday.  They are the "babies" of the family.  I am now realizing that my mother definitely knew what she was saying when she kept telling me how fast it would all go once all of them were past 5.  We had such a fun birthday night out for them - the whole family.  It will always be a special memory!
I love this quote about motherhood... so true
(found on Pinterest)
A Latin Mass
My dad had his 73rd birthday earlier this month.  He wanted nothing as far as gifts go.  He simply requested his favorite dinner (mom's famous enchilada dinner - special recipe passed down from my beautiful Gram).  He also asked if someone or anyone would attend a traditional latin Mass with him at the one parish that offers this on Sundays.  I told him I would attend with him as my gift to him.  Last Sunday dawned cold but bright and sunny and we made the little trek over to St. Anthony's parish in the downtown area.
Wow.  It was a longer Mass than usual but how beautiful!  I felt the majesty and transcendence of Jesus sacrifice on Calvary very powerfully.  I got a little emotional a time or two.  I was lost, yes, in trying to follow the missal, but I found that I was okay with that. 
Intercessory Prayer
.It's difficult at times, but worth it, this daily intercession. I don't doubt the power of prayer too often anymore.  I, like every mother, have my hands completely full but daily prayer for my family is like oxygen.  Totally necessary.  And how efficacious.  Help is at the ready and Heaven is near. We are all loved beyond our ability to comprehend.  Believe me on this.  I will relate experiences at a later time.
Family Dinner
These are not my Gram's (or Mom's) enchiladas, nor her special sauce, but these are very easy and good for a warm, ready dinner straight from the slow cooker:  layer in chicken breasts, enchilada sauce, taco seasoning, a bit of water, shredded cheese, green onions, and a little cilantro.  I cook it on low 7 hours, fork shred the chicken, and serve it with soft tortillas, and either chopped avocados on the side or Spanish rice.  Pinterest inspiration.  I love that time-wasting site too much.
Maintaining Peace of Heart - a crucial daily battle
This is a quote from the book entitled Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Phillipe...
"Very frequently, spiritual combat consists precisely in this: defending one's peace of heart against the enemy who attempts to steal it from us."
Have you ever noticed how many things come at you in one day?  How many poisonous thoughts, unkind people perhaps.  How many situations seem to become ridiculously / unnecessarily  complicated and stressful?
Take a deep breath and don't let yourself get sucked in.  If you do, when you realize it, look up and out, and say a quiet prayer.
My particular favorite is "Mary, Take Over". 

Cover yourself and your family everyday with prayer.  They are worth it.  Don't let red-legs have your inner peace.
God Bless.
Linked with Jennifer at

Saturday, January 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes

The January blahs have settled into some of the hearts in this family, as expected, but it isn't the children.  It has been me this week.  I'm urging myself on to taking cues from them as to how to keep seeing each cold, sunless, day as a day filled with life and potential - anyway.  In that effort, I've made a list each morning this week of all the things I love during morning prayer/quiet time (the Magnificat is a beautiful prayer booklet). I've tried more to allow the nice moments to sink in rather than rushing ahead thinking of the next minutes or hours or days. 
But I do love to plan the day in that early morning hour also, so there was compromise there.  I love watching the dawn creep in each morning, sun or no sun, while sipping that first cup of hot coffee ( w/ vanilla creamer).   I also really love the fresh hope of a new year. 

After morning Mass with the kids' school at our parish yesterday morning, I was on my way back out to the van when a nice woman put her arm around my shoulders and asked how our Christmas was.  I replied in the affirmative and she said how she always prays for me and my beautiful children.  I don't know her really at all except we are somehow connected because of our attendance at morning Mass and our parish family activities.  I was grateful all over again for the Church.  The rest of my day carried that blessing.
The same morning as I arrived at my school, less than 1/4 of a mile down the road from our parish and my children's catholic school, I was unlocking the door to go in and get ready for the students.  But I stopped in my tracks and had to pause to listen to the gorgeous bells from the church playing a sublime hymn.  It was ringing out over the valley, across the field, through a neighborhood, and right up through our school playground to the entrance doors.  It was a moment to savor.  Again, I was so thankful for faith, life, and the Church.
This gem has been my meditation these early mornings this first week back into the bustle after the peaceful Christmas holiday...
(pinterest photo)
I heard Fr. W. say today that Christmas goes on through Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord.  Perfect, because I still don't have our tree taken down or the ornaments packed away.  I'm not behind at all. 

Speaking of keeping up, my January project - the closet/mudroom - is coming along well.  I can already breathe better just imagining an end to that closet chaos.
I love Disney movie soundtracks way too much - ridiculous really.  But so much fun to sing along with while cleaning or puttering around the house.  I think it goes back to my high school/college days when I did show choir musicals.
This is from "Frozen"  (which the girls loved and the boys tolerated).  My little niece (Goddaughter) kept calling it "Freezing".  
I don't know, when she sings "open up the gates!", I just want to put my face to the sun and throw up my arms :)

Chin up

God bless you and keep you in 2014.
This is linked to the 7 Quick Takes at