Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roman Moment

It was our third day in Rome.  We had been to the Pantheon,
Piazza Navona and its fountain,
the fountain of Trevi,
and two basilicas:  St. John Lateran
and St. Mary Major, as well as the church that houses the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 
(This is a mosaic outside; the painting is inside.)

As darkness approached, Len and I prepared to make our way across town to our bed and breakfast.

Footsore and weary, we planned our route--three separate buses were required. 

Bus stop #1:  We find the correct place to stand, but the electronic info board shows a 12 minute wait for our vehicle.  We decide to walk on to our connection.

Bus stop #2:  We can take the #46 or #60.  Okay.  Here comes a #60 Express--what about that?  Doors open before we can decide, but it doesn't matter.  This bus is JAMMED, and no one gets off.  Oh, well.

Check the sign.  Yes, the express will work.  We'll be ready for the next one!

Waiting.  Waiting.

Now what?  Down the hill, there are blue police lights blocking the street.  What's going on?  I didn't hear the crash of an accident.  Maybe a pedestrian was hit.  Look at all those cars and buses (buses!) completely blocked down there.  We are far from our destination.  How long is this going to take now?

Okay, wait a minute.  There is no traffic from the side street above the lights, either.  I wonder . . .  Can it be?  He was at the Spanish Steps today . . .

Oh, my goodness!  Here comes a hoard of motorcycles from the side street!  We're being motioned to stay on the sidewalk.  It must be!  Yes!  Here he comes in that glass topped car!

And just like that, Pope Benedict XVI rode right past us as we stood on the curb amidst no crowd (unless you count his extensive entourage).

Len cared more about watching than filming, which is why the pope leaves the frame for a few moments.  It was a great decision--I'm a bit sorry I've only seen Lauren receiving her high school diploma on the small screen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Viaggio Sicuro!

Len and I are flying to Rome on Sunday!  We'll spend four days there celebrating our 25th anniversary (coming in March), then travel to Paros to visit Lauren.  My parents will be here driving, cooking, cleaning, schooling, and spoiling.  ;-)

This trip is coming together quickly.  We didn't decide to go and start making plans until mid- to late-October, so right now life is CRAZY, trying to prepare ourselves and our family (school, groceries, to-do lists) while still working through our "normal" routine.

SO . . . posting here will be light or non-existent for the next few weeks.  ασφαλές ταξίδι!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Are You Hungry For?

Our team (from Teams of Our Lady) is currently reading and discussing Fulton J. Sheen's slim book The Seven Capital Sins.  So far, the chapter on gluttony has been the most attention-grabbing for me.

The archbishop composed this as a series of addresses in 1939, but you'd swear it was actually last week.  For example:

"If there is any indication of the present degeneration of society better than another it is the excess of luxury in the modern world.  When men begin to forget their souls, they begin to take great care of their bodies.  There are more athletic clubs in the modern world than there are spiritual retreat houses; and who shall count the millions spent in beauty shops to glorify faces that will one day be the prey of worms.  It is not particularly difficult to find thousands who will spend two or three hours a day in exercising, but if you ask them to bend their knees to God in five minutes of prayer they protest that it is too long."

He points out that the difference between dieting and fasting is intention:  Christians fast "for the sake of the soul" rather than the body (looking good).  "The Christian does not fast because he believes the body is wicked, but in order to make it pliable in the hands of the soul."  And again, "We are to mortify bodily hunger and thirst not because the flesh is wicked, but because the soul must ever exercise mastery over it, lest it become a tyrant."

Archbishop Sheen asserts that we are called "to cultivate a spiritual hunger and thirst.  Mortification of the bodily appetites is only a means, not an end.  The end is union with God, the soul's desire."

"Tell me your hungers and your thirsts and I will tell you what you are."

"The great pity is that so many have been so concerned with the body that they neglect the soul, and in neglecting the soul they lose the appetite for the spiritual."

After reminding us that God Himself is waiting for us in the tabernacle and in Holy Communion (every day!), the archbishop wonders why more of us don't avail ourselves of this opportunity:  ". . . what does it winess to but the deadening of our spiritual sense?  Our body would miss a dessert more than our soul would miss a Communion."  Ouch!

This isn't meant as a finger-wagging to make you feel bad.  Maybe it's a wakeup call.  Since our team reviewed this chapter, I haven't been better about getting to Mass myself.  I have, though, set aside more time for prayer and made a few quick visits to the chapel.  I'm trying to pay more attention to body AND soul and how they interact.

What are YOU hungry for?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dollhouse

I had misgivings about spending money on (and making space for) a dollhouse for a six-year old.  Would she outgrow it too soon to be "worth it?"  With my older children, this was never a concern; younger siblings kept coming along to get more use out of toys, clothes, and homeschooling supplies.  I could convince myself that almost anything was an investment.

But Rebecca REALLY wanted a dollhouse.  And she's always been good at occupying herself and at imaginative play. 

I found a house with lots of accessories on Craigslist, reducing the time needed to accumulate furnishings.  In fact, there are so many pieces that they've been divvied up as gifts from four different groups!  That, plus some extras from party guests, has given Becca quite a jump-start. 
So here's Rebecca with the dollhouse that has "changed her life."  She has plenty of furnishings (not all seen here), but is already supplementing.  Just now she's adjusting a movie screen made of colored tissue paper.  Mom is riding her horse to the theater today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Homemade Birthday

I only had a few birthday parties as a child, and that's fine.  That's how it was back in my day.  Now we know lots of children who have a party every year; I'm not sure if it's because our culture has changed or because we live in such an affluent area.

Anyway, the compromise tradition for our family is that you host your first birthday party when you turn four (before then, a party is more for the adults than the kids, in my opinon), and have another every other year.  Rebecca turned six on Sunday (!), and hosted a princess tea party.

The vast majority of our birthdays are celebrated at home.  (Right now I can't think of any "away" parties, but it is past my bedtime, so I could be forgetting something . . .)  This week I noticed one of the things I like best about a homemade party:  the anticipation and excitement of preparation.

Becca loved thinking about and planning her party.  We talked about the pinata for weeks.  We were going to make one, but in the end I bailed and bought the perfect castle at the party store.  Instead of waiting for Sunday, we hung it (empty) over the kitchen table so we could enjoy it right away.

The castle pinata led to the cake design decision.  I had lots of helpers (and audience) for cake decorating--a cone icer/sprinkler, marshmallow sorter, drawbridge constructer, etc.  By the way, those pink marshmallows tasted awful--not even one child liked them!

Marianna and Becca spent days culling their Halloween candy for pinata donations.  We took our big board off the table, revealing a perfectly sized venue for tea time (Marianna called it "tiny and pathetic"--we miss our college kids).  Rebecca squealed with delight when she came downstairs Sunday morning to find the table prettily set.

She and Marianna made and arranged place cards.  See what I mean about anticipation?  Spreading out the getting ready and sharing the preparations made the fun last so much longer.
Rebecca also came downstairs to find her family presents on display.  She had to wait until after Mass to open them.  The big one is a dollhouse (wrapped in a tablecloth)--Craigslist, yeah!

We served a three course tea:  sandwiches, scones, and cake.  For details of fancier tea parties, go here or here.

 Cardboard buckets serendipitously found at Target:

Len hung the pinata outside.  Becca wanted to save it, so the girls pulled the ribbons one by one rather than beating the castle to pieces.  None of the ribbons actually opened the trap door, so Daniel opened it (the door) with a sword and shook and shook and shook to rain the candy onto the girls.
I've been meaning (for months) to write posts about birthday parties.  Marianna had a fun one this year, with a great plant potting activity.  And Joe's 12th birthday (October 2009) was probably the best boy party we've ever had.  Now that I've mentioned them, they'll have to be blogged, right?

Monday, November 8, 2010

This is What 2:40 Sounds Like at My House

The scene:  My room during flash card drill

Mom!  13!
(with glee) hahahahahahaha
Mommy, you need caffeine!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Blue Ridge Mountains

On Friday, Day 2 of our outing, we hiked a 5.8 mile circuit up Cold Mountain, admiring spectacular views and high meadows.
I'm wearing multiple layers, while my husband has on shorts!
 We encountered several old boundary walls.

The highest meadow had a 360 degree panoramic view of mountain and valley.
 Random kid pics:

We gathered wild apples from a few windblown trees.
 Random nature close ups:

On the way home, we stopped at Towne to pick up Dusty.  Boy, was he happy to see us!  Len took us into the building that will be the new clinic.  Here he is explaining the plans.
 Standing in Dad's new office:
We also had the opportunity to meet the building's tenant, who runs an international market and restaurant.  We brought home some fabulous seasoned meat for a taco dinner.  What a delicious place to have right next door!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Our Blue Ridge Getaway

Len's been working hard on the building project and Daniel had a few days off school, so on Thursday we drove to the Blue Ridge Mountains for some relaxing family time.

The journey itself was lovely.
Yes, we've got another driver in training!
Here's where we ate lunch before our hike.
You know you're truly in the wilderness when . . . you find a pay phone?  Well, the cell coverage was quite poor.
Crabtree Falls is purportedly the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi.  We still don't know whether that refers to elevation or length of the cascade.
It did go on and on . . .
 The trail switched back and forth multiple times on our way to the top.
A view of the valley and beyond
The trail was beautiful, if a bit treacherous (especially on the way back down), with damp leaves covering the rocks.
The view from above the falls is so much better in real life.
Here's the cabin Len found online.  Isn't it adorable?  The main level held a family/dining room, kitchen, and bathroom.  Upstairs we shared a bedroom and tiny loft.
The cabin was fairly dark inside, but the kitchen and bathroom were add-ons with huge windows and tons of light.  Note the hot tub on the patio!
More tomorrow . . .