Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent: Love Comes Down

I love this song by Matt Maher, and it always reminds me of Advent and the Incarnation.  The chorus is so joyful:  "Isn't it beautiful?  Isn't it marvelous?"

An excerpt:
I'm searching for a king and kingdom
Here among the beggars and the weak
The broken and redeemed
I'm finding grace beyond all measure
In flesh and blood He hides his majesty
Inside of you and me

Why would a King
Do such a thing?

Isn't it beautiful?
Isn't it marvelous?
The God of the universe
He became one of us
We cry out and then
Love comes down again
Hope is found in him


Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Favorite Birthday Gift

Presented to me a few months ago by Lauren and Adam:
Our whole family is thrilled, of course.
And we were informed yesterday that it's a boy (due in May)!
Thanks for your prayers and good wishes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Delayed Gratification

Over the past few seasons, Len and the boys have taken out some ugly bushes.  Len moved the compost pile to an easy-to-dump-into-from-the-deck location.  Most recently, he and Becca fenced in another spot and planted . . .
seedless Concord grapes!
Seven or eight years ago I read about the recently developed Thomcord, a hybrid of Thompson (seedless green) and Concord (delicious, super-grapey flavor with huge seeds) grapes.  At that point they were only available in California farmers' markets, but the article speculated that they would gradually spread nationwide.

I still haven't seen them in a grocery store, but Len found some planting vines (twigs?) on line.  If they survive our weather and deer, we could harvest our first grapes in two years.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mary Consoles Eve

O Eve!
My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Life without end.

— Sr Columba Guare © 2005 Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey
I found this image on the internet a few years ago (most recently here and here), and have never forgotten it.  It is deceptively simple, yet so beautiful and profound.
Created by a sister at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, the picture and poem have been made into matted prints as well as greeting and Christmas cards.  My print is propped up in the family room, beautifying the space and encouraging meditation while it waits for a frame.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thank God for Aunts

My children are blessed with some wonderful aunts.  They love my kids, pray for them, offer treats and cousin time, and accept them unconditionally.  I'm so grateful to them all.
Len's sister lives nearest to us, and is a champion example of aunt-awesomeness.  (When I grow up, maybe I'll be as good as she is.)  She comes over regularly (even though most of the children are too old to be baby-sat) and spends quality thought, time, and resources on gift-giving occasions.
For example, to celebrate Joseph's birthday, she took him out to eat (twice in one day--those teen boy appetites!) and then to a rock-climbing class.
MA bought Rebecca a Sculpey starter set and project book for her birthday.  She took her out to eat, then came home to work with the clay.  The ladies created
colorful pony-tail holders (with a button kit)
 and twisted bracelets.
 Thank you, 'sters, for your gifts of time and love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oh, Good Saint Joseph . . .

A few Lents ago I began praying daily for particular pairs of fathers and sons.  Many of the boys were entering the adolescent stage of questioning or resisting God and religion.  Only a few of the dads are men of faith.  My original three sets have expanded to include seven father/son groups!
I've prayed a separate Hail Mary for each pair nearly every day until recently.  I wanted a more masculine and intentional prayer; it's not always easy to stay focused through the Hail Marys.  Looking to St. Joseph, I've been developing a request that works better for me.  The first line brings up an image that stays with me as I focus and pray.  Here's the current version of my new prayer:
Oh, good Saint Joseph, put your arms around the shoulders of ______ and ______; turn them towards your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  As the head of the Holy Family, inspire and empower ______ to be a good and holy leader of his family.  As the foster father of Jesus, inspire ______ to open his heart in obedience and love to his father and God our Father.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Vows Are Taken

It was a joyful, reverent nuptial mass.  The reception was delightful.*  The weather wasn't perfect, but that's okay.  We're winding down from a phenomenal weekend.

Above is the only picture I have so far.**  More to come, I'm sure.  Literally thousands were taken on Saturday.  Lauren enlisted three of her Aegean Center friends to photograph the day.  The first memory card to be downloaded held over 1200 shots!

It is such a blessing to have my daughter married to a good man, beginning a new life filled with love and hope.  We parents dream of the best for our children.  I'm incredibly happy that these two have found it in each other.

*My children registered shock (Joe's face was priceless) at my dancing; not sure whether it was due to my lack of inhibitions or absence of skill.   ;-)
**Not sure if it will work for you, but when I click on the picture, it appears larger and sharper.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Countdown Continues

Except in the kitchen, my housekeeping style is more "tidy" than "clean."  Our family is proficient at picking up, and cooperates well for the regular daily and weekly chores.  But we don't dust.  Or wash windows. Or wipe baseboards.  You get the idea.

With the wedding coming up (8 days!!!), it's time to clean a little deeper than usual.  I proposed a housecleaning list, but never got around to writing one.  Who did?  Bingo--my marvelous husband. 

This dry erase board in the kitchen is our central spot for doodling, reminders, and announcements.  (The whole board was once marked off with auto striping tape to make a deluxe--and EPIC FAILURE--chore chart, but that's a tale for another day.)
He may not have great handwriting, but his ideas and work ethic are second to none.  =)  Len wrote down dates and areas, and every evening has led the charge.  We're not covering regular work, but decluttering (the mudroom), wiping walls and baseboards (the bathrooms), etc.  Our home will never be magazine-perfect, but it will soon be both neat and clean, ready for our biggest hospitality event so far.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tennis, Anyone?

I made a new friend last year. Her oldest is the same age as my youngest; we met through our daughters. We co-oped for writing, art, and science with a third family, and the girls shared a tiny homeschool ballet class.

J's role in the co-op was hosting a four-year-old boy so the co-op (which included older siblings) could run more smoothly. I think she would have enjoyed teaching, but with a napping toddler at home, it was not to be. And she was a huge help. The four-year-olds had more fun at her house, and the writing class was easier for us other moms to teach. I'm all for multi-age schooling, but some subjects are just plain harder to get through with an active non-reader looking for fun.
Anyway . . . This summer, J is sharing her expertise by teaching tennis to several little ones (5-7 year-olds).  She is an incredible teacher, with a long list of games, prizes, and motivational ideas in addition to her sports knowledge.  She is incredibly positive and patient with the group.  Rebecca is having a blast!

Lately I've been benefiting so much from the generosity of other women who have been willing to share their time and talents with my children.  Thank you, ladies!

Monday, August 13, 2012

So Not a Surprise

In a recent issue of Life Site News, Angela O'Brien reported on the results of a study conducted by Dr. Ross O'Hara at Darthmouth College in New Hampshire.  Guess what?  "Exposure to sexual content in popular movies predicts sexual behavior in adolescence."  Really?

The study sounds interesting.  O'Hara and his colleagues coded 684 top-grossing movies (1998-2004) for seconds of sexual content. 

"The researchers then recruited 1,228 participants, from 12 to 14 years old. Each participant reported which movies they had seen, from collections of fifty randomly selected movies.

Six years later, the participants were surveyed to find out how old they were when they became sexually active, how many partners they had, and how risky their sexual behavior might have been. According to O’Hara, those who had been exposed to high levels of sexual content on film had more sexual partners, indulged in riskier sexual behaviour, and became sexually active earlier."

While the study did not prove causality, I'm convinced of the connection.  The researchers mentioned that the movies appeared to change "sensation seeking" and "also speculate[d] that adolescents learn specific behaviors from the sexual messages in movies."  Read the whole article here.

Regarding media content (especially movies and books), Len and I have always been among the strictest parents we know.*  It hasn't always been easy. 

Sometimes it's hard to decide how "bad" a film needs to be for us to say no to it, and sometimes it's hard to stick to our guns against a child's opposition.  And when they say everyone else is allowed to read or watch [insert title here], I believe them.  I know we're on the edge of the bell curve.  Maybe my kids have had to miss some fun, and maybe we censored some media that didn't deserve it, but overall I'm glad we did.

As researcher Ross O'Hara stated, "This study, and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages."


* It's been a blessing that Len and I are on pretty much the same page regarding appropriate media.  Supporting each other and presenting a united front has been invaluable.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making Room

These days I've been cooking from the freezer without replenishing it.  I want it to have enough space for Lauren and Adam's wedding cake!

As it turns out, the cake and platter don't fit on that bottom shelf (unless I'm willing to let the door smush the icing--not!).  I'm going to remove the top two shelves and the juice bins on the door so the cake will be able to settle on the shelf just above the veggie basket.  Details, details . . .

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sew Amazing

A friend who knew I was sewing with the little girls this year showed me a quilt top she had made and recommended Quilt in a Day by Eleanor Burns.  Apparently she is a strip quilting/machine piecing pioneer.

I eventually did some research and mentioned that I would try quilting with Rebecca this fall.  Unfortunately, I doubted Marianna would have time due to commuting, school, homework, sports, etc.  Well, C volunteered to teach Marianna the process this summer.  What a gift!

She met us at the fabric store (in the last few days of a big sale) and spent nearly two hours coaching us through fabric selection.  (Log cabin piecing requires a specific size and color coordination.)  Here's what we purchased:
 And here's the result so far:
This is the quilt top (fields and furrows pattern).  I'm told that Marianna sewed nearly every stitch herself.  Soon the team will tie the top to the batting and backing (a turquoise sheet--the patterned border will wrap around to the back), then bind the edges.

I'm grateful and impressed.  Marianna is justifiably thrilled and proud.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Busy Days

Lauren and Adam's wedding is two weeks away! My days alternate between busy and procrastinating, but Lauren seems to be working every minute on detail after detail. Here's a glance at what's been going on here:
Alterations Continue (I had a larger picture here but was told to remove it because "it showed too much.")
I'm baking the wedding cake--my "usual"--hazelnut with raspberry jam, chocolate ganache, and French buttercream.  For Len's birthday I made a sample to test a bittersweet chocolate (thumbs up!) and try out an icing style that the bride is considering.
A florist will prepare the church arrangements and boutonnieres; Lauren and her helpers (many guests are artists . . . ) will create the bouquets and centerpieces.  This was our "field trip" to a floral wholesaler in MD.
 The refrigerated room--note our sweaters--brr!

Lauren's photos served multiple purposes.  Most flowers were neither labeled nor priced, so she brought her camera to the next room to show the salesman.  He identified the plants and looked up their current prices.  She's also used her pictures as references while planning her order.
Adam's uncle will be renting his town house to the newlyweds (and Adam's brother).  Friends and family have been working hard to clean after the previous tenant's departure.
Allegedly power washing the deck . . .   :-)
 The Groom painting yet another ceiling
 The Father of the Bride, painting the kitchen
I've always baked wedding cakes in stages, so it was fun to pile up the ingredients to get a perspective of how much richness is going into this dessert.  The cake (and icing) will need 44 sticks of butter (44!), 32 eggs, and 11 cups of sour cream (those are gigantic tubs in the photo)!  It will be 4 tiers:  6", 9", 12", and 16" in diameter.  We will NOT run out of cake.
 Cake mixes for the days to come--8 double batches of dry ingredients
Of course there's lots more going on--dance lessons, program writing and rewriting and editing, music plans, DJ interview, caterer and venue details to finalize, the flower girl's dress and basket to prepare, and on and on and on.

Many hands are making light work, but Lauren and Len especially impress me with their dedication and continuous efforts.  I am so grateful to both of them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Math Major

Wow, this summer is zooming along!  A vacation, a wedding, and the new school year are right around the corner . . .
We haven't seen much of David lately.  He was home for just a week in mid-May and then drove back to school for an eight week internship/research project/I never get it right.  He's receiving free room and board on campus plus a generous stipend.

Saint Mary's offers a limited number of summer grants to students so they can perform research.  David worked up a plan, submitted the application, and was selected!  It's a math thing, something about finding a formula or equation that creates a particular shape.  Here is a link to the sort of work he's doing, although David's project involves weighted curvature instead of curvature.

I'm glad he's found such a satisfying way to spend his days, but it will be great to have him back at last.  I think I've spent more time with his girlfriend, Colette, than with my boy these past few months (which has been great fun, though)!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Graduate

Although her wedding is the big news of the summer (58 days to go!), May 11 was also an important day for Lauren.  Nine of us drove to Richmond to celebrate her graduation from VCU.
Art Honors
Magna Cum Laude
University Deans Scholarship
University Honors
Just sayin' . . .
At first I had no idea how rigorous this photography major would be--honors classes; learning and applying the details of both darkroom and digital printing; and the sheer number of hours required for the artistry (concept, vision, what have you) as well as craft.  Being a fast reader or writer can save time for many students, but there is no way to create what Lauren did without hours and hours and hours of effort.  She is an amazing woman.
 We couldn't be prouder!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom

The Catholic bishops of America have called for a "Fortnight for Freedom," a time of prayer, action, and witness.  We are asked to focus on the continuing struggle for religious liberty.

Click here to view an inspirational video from

And here is what the bishops have said, "The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty."

Our parish is sponsoring Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction, and prayer for the next two Friday evenings.  In addition, the rosary will be recited in the church before EVERY mass for two weeks:  our 3 dailies, plus the weekend services.

Tonight our family will decide how we will participate.

Sometimes I don't believe this mandate will last or ever be enforced.  Then I think about how entrenched Roe vs. Wade is, and how few people probably realized 40 years ago that it could even happen or where it would lead.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Almost Heaven . . .

. . . West Virginia  (So are you old enough that this song is instantly in your head?)

We spent a few days of Easter week hiking and relaxing in the Mountain State.  Joe arrived home (from Rome) late Tuesday night, and we were off by 0800 Wednesday.

Len had planned a hike to occupy the afternoon before checking in to our vacation rental.  The first clue that we weren't in the cozy suburbs anymore? 
Snow dusting a spiderweb!
Indeed, we enjoyed our best snow of the season that third day after Easter!  ;-)  I realize that's not saying much--we had a paltry snowfall this year.
 ALMOST dressed for success--no boots--only sneakers!
 Rebecca said it felt as if we were walking in Narnia.
 She rolled this snowball as we hiked, carrying it on and on,
 until the building of the snowman.
 One of many creek crossings.  One way (snow) or another our feet were bound to get soaked.
 Building up a crossing spot for the (ahem) less agile among us.
 A few reminders that it was actually spring.
 Followed by a well earned reward!
 A 12.7 mile hike was scheduled for day 2.  It took us about 8 hours.  Here's our snowy start:

 Can you see the paw prints and tail trail?


 Plenty of creek crossings again.
Our return to Narnia.
 Tired, but still smiling.
 Day 3:  Blackwater Falls (a boardwalk, not a hike this time)

 Dinner at Hellbender Burritos (named for a local salamander)--huge, unique (chili, cheese steak, BBQ, etc.) wraps.

 Becca had the kid size (?) !
 On our way home, we stopped at the fascinating nature center.
The sandbox includes molds for making pawprints.
We planned to drive home in time for Saturday's 5:30 mass because Len had to leave early Sunday morning for his spring kayaking trip.  He was kind enough to let me follow a billboard down a long, windy road to an alpaca farm.  The store was closed (too bad) because it was shearing weekend (cool!). 

The owner was so welcoming, showing us around the barn and allowing us to watch the shearing process.  Fascinating!  She and Len also shared some shop talk about sheep dogs, alpaca reproduction, etc.
We had a wonderful trip, thanks especially to Len, who organized almost everything.  What a guy!  Other unshown highlights:  domino games, hot chocolate, horseshoes, hanging out by the fireplace, movie nights, knitting time,  etc.