Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy New Year's Eve!

Technically, it's really New Year's Day but I'm going to go with the pre-Vatican II folks on this. You know how I feel about the anticipated Mass for a major holiday.

Let's back up. At 3:45 AM, when DH returned to bed from cleaning up the first round of spit-up and the accompanying child, I read him what the Holy Spirit had, just 5 minutes prior, deposited into my inbox...

"Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of Him."
— St. Dominic

I think he appreciated the sentiment. It gave him something positive to think about on his second and third trip to the boys' room. Yes, we have the stomach flu. Yes, that will lessen but not eliminate our celebration of Advent Eve.
The day began with yum French toast (made with blessed bread from Thanksgiving) for all those who were well enough.
 The others got Jello...poor bellies
Orange so it's not mistaken for blood if it happens to make the return trip ;0)

The day was full of resting and watching and talking and tending..."the sick ward" someone named it. Then, at three, I took the older 2 to serve a wedding while DH tended the patients. 
We ended up running to a neighboring parish for Vigil so that we didn't have to drag the sick people out tomorrow (DH will head to early Mass alone tomorrow). Yes, it's my least favorite thing to do and yet, like always, the Holy Spirit has it well in hand. Father reminded us that, although Advent is typically outshone by Lent, "because it has all the good stuff like fasting and Stations" we should strive to make it the best of all possible Advents because it forms the foundation for all that comes after like Christmas, Lent and Easter. Brilliant. It is the New Year, after all (for you non-Catholics, Advent begins the new Liturgical calendar in the Church). 
Returning home, our Advent Eve party was low-key but still fun. 
Sparkling pear juice for the little people
And grape juice for the big people ;0)

Since it's likely to be another restless night, I will wish you a Happy New Year and blessed beginning of Advent. DH and I have decided to make it more like Lent for the big people in hopes of truly gaining the quiet anticipation that we so long for at this time of year. We shall see if the sick ward cooperates. In the meantime, I have my decorating done: kid-friendly Advent wreath (until my forgotten candles arrive in the mail) and purple bow for front door. ;0)

We are blessed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful...Part Ten

What a lovely day plus I've had around much for which to be thankful.

Our dear friends and their wonderful family passed through a few days ago on their way to the East coast. It's always such balm to me...such a good fit for our nice to see them even for a short time.

Last night I was able to sneak away for an hour to sit and have a cup of tea with my other dear friend. Two amazing ladies in one week's time...such a blessing to me. I am able to speak to them and gain a calm that is missing for much of life. I don't feel weird and alone when they are around. I am blessed by their friendship.
Did you see the full moon last night? Beautiful.
Then today, the day set aside for giving thanks. First, as in all things, head to Mass. It was wonderful to go as a family and see our kids on the altar but today was even more special. So many familiar faces joined together to give thanks to Him from Whom all blessings flow. Even better, four priests, a deacon and a seminarian on the Extraordinary Ministers needed! What a great way to start the day.

Home to fight with my turkey (didn't buy a bag...haven't cooked without one for about 10 years). So, we sent the kids out to watch the parade.

DH was kind enough to share his super-secret family recipe for keeping the breast soft and it turned out beautifully.
Add to that wonderful things like roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction and my aunt's famous jello mold. Wow, so much for which to be thankful.

We sent the ladies home, cleaned up, and watched two episodes of Leave it to Beaver before the little people went to bed. Now, I am so thankful to have several hours to sit with my beloved and share all the wonderful memories of the day.

Wishing you all many things for which to give thanks, the most important being the precious gift of life. May we all remember our blessings and be thankful every day.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful...Part Nine

I guess it's actually part 10 since I had two threes but it seems trivial to jump ahead.

Today I'm feeling much better and I am thankful for that. I credit the "magic elixir" I whipped up on Monday.
sorry it's sideways
That's right...mushroom sauerkraut soup. I did not spare the juice this time- three cans! (Blondie said, "it's really puckery") and it did the trick. The Slovaks did a lot of manual labor back in the day and couldn't afford to be sick. I'm sure this came out many times during the winter to drive out the bugs. It was also good practice for me to get ready for Christmas Eve.

Ah, Christmas Eve. I can't wait but I'm not rushing it, either. I have a few more days to tidy up the house and then we're settling in for a month of prayer, fasting and quiet. Few outside obligations and lots of family time. I'm so happy to have worked to get to this point. I am thankful to have an Advent that will be family-centered as we wait for the Holy Family to make it to Bethlehem and begin the celebration of the Savior's Birth!

Today we're finishing up our classes and getting ready for Thanksgiving. I heard a marvelous homily yesterday from Archbishop Chaput about giving thanks, not just for our family, friends and life, but thanking first the One from whom all of those things came.

Happy Thanksgiving early since tomorrow is a busy day. Go to Mass first thing to make sure your vision is properly directed then spend the day in thanksgiving to God for all of His blessings in your life.

From the Marian Fathers...
A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day
Most Merciful Lord, gathering for this meal of thanksgiving
we offer You, as our Creator, our thanks and praise
You who teach us to love without limit
You who teach us to forgive without counting the cost
You who teach us to give without seeking return

May we honor You through our words and actions
every day, every moment.
May we worship You through our lives with others,
lived in kindness and tender care.

May we fully realize what St. Faustina came to know:
that in our thankfulness, true earthly joy resides
that in Your love for us we find the heavenly harvest
that strengthens our souls, until we reside in You forever.

Praise and glory to You, Merciful Lord,
now and forever. Amen. 

We are blessed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thankful, Part Eight

I don't know why but I'm not a fan of "holiday" weeks. For some reason, they always seem longer. The kids are clearly my genetic link since they've already given up work for the holiday (well, one in particular, the rest are plodding along.) As a student, I was famous for sneaking out a few days early every break and yet I was the prof that always gave a test the day before everyone left campus. Meanie.

I am thankful that today is a Feast Day and that means I have some work, no dessert. That includes the main celebrant! Even the most paltry attempts at a treat usually end up producing the desired result. They're out there now, working on their version of a pumpkin still life.

Not a pumpkin still paltry attempt at a dessert ;0)

The writing didn't work so I added the chocolate, which is better anyway. Next year, chocolate first then and learn. Some words from Saint Clement to ponder tonight...

"We must," says he, "look upon all the things of this world, as none of ours, and not desire them. This world and that to come are two enemies. We cannot, therefore, be friends to both; but we must resolve which we would forsake, and which we would enjoy. And we think, that it is better to hate the present things, as little, short-lived, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, which are truly good and incorruptible. Let us contend with all earnestness, knowing that we are now called to the combat. Let us run in the straight road, the race that is incorruptible."

We are blessed.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thankful...Part Seven

First and foremost, DH has returned from retreat (cue the Angelic Choir!)...he thanked me for allowing him to go on such a wonderful weekend. I know what he meant...I went an entire two days with no contact, allowing him to pray and think and talk and just be - always a father and husband but not a father-and-husband-in-the-moment for that 48-hours. As much as I dreaded it, it turned out to be a good exercise for me as well. Lots of trials (I think the total was two milk spills and one urine spill - Blondie "forgot" to go to the bathroom) but I kept my cool for probably 98.6% of the time. A new record for me ;0) A lot of Mercy from above and around me. Thank you to everyone who was praying!

I'm also thankful today because, after DH took everyone to see the top three sing at Mass (read: let me sleep and get ready alone because I did back-to-back Masses yesterday) we went to have our Christmas pictures taken. I know, it's not Advent...I didn't say I put up the tree; I said we had pictures taken. That means the cards will go out next week and my Advent will be free from another duty and thus open to prayer and peace. Amen.

Ahh, my little cuties.

Most importantly, today is the Feast of Christ the of the Universe (and everything). Sorry, sometimes Douglas Adams just pops into my head. This Gospel gives me such peace.

My kingdom does not belong to this world

Peace because I walk around most of the time feeling like I live on the wrong planet. The things people think about, say, find important...I don't get it. Not because I'm a superior just seems like I look at things in a way that isn't shared by many of my fellow men.
A fitness studio, called Mecka, next to a Catholic church...anyone else think that's funny?
Every time I hear those words from the gospel it makes me realize I am not on the wrong planet, I'm just choosing the other-than-mainstream-society-path. A good reminder on perspective from Fr. Humberto's blog:

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you are my king and your kingdom is truth. Form my mind to know all things in relation to you. Form my heart to judge all people in relation to your love. Free me from the deceptions of pride and self-love. May only your love reign in my heart!

Resolution: This week I will reject all internal judgments of others that are based on hearsay. I will replace them with prayers for those persons, giving them the benefit of the doubt and entrusting them to the care of the King.

Let God care for His kingdom and all who dwell in it. Support those we don't understand with prayer for His help and guidance. Sounds like a good start to Thanksgiving week.

We are blessed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thankful...Part Six

Today I am very thankful that yesterday is over. It was a wonderful day, buoyed by the offerings of others, but it was long.

It was the last day of Step Up classes at a not-so-local university but it was also a School Time concert in the morning. It was well worth it - lots of good music and information on Mozart (who knew he was partial to horns?)

Excellent seats as well...can't beat $10 (parking) for 6 people at the symphony!
Then it was off for our hour drive to St. Vincent. It's a long trip but well worth it. This semester we covered karate, jazz, weather, geography, art, cooking, PowerPoint and several more that I can't recall right now.
Saying our good-byes to the Basilica until Spring

With his favorite painting, "Waterfall"
I'm glad the Saints are around with their wisdom (see the beginning of this post). Knowing that it was going to be a long weekend, I asked prayers from friends, prayed with the kids, and backed off ever so slightly from my usual high alert status. It's true, a lot of the little things don't matter. Some little things still do, like manners. Always.

DH is on retreat so we had "breakfast in pajamas" morning. (this is not daddy-approved but it did wonders for our moods and allowed us to make it through until lunch with only one or two playaways for the little people...did I mention I'm also battling G's cold?)

In fact, only one outside source interrupted our peace this morning (the go-between of a woman who decides everything at the last minute then, somehow, makes everyone else do the legwork!)

Just as I was getting into a full agitation, I looked down and saw a smile from Heaven (the Holy Spirit knows I'm a fan of double-yolks ;0) ) Yes, my cholesterol is taking a beating but my heart is less-stressed because I didn't go into full-blown rant...little steps, people. Besides, I shared most of it with my tiny friend.

This afternoon consists of a wedding Mass followed an hour later by Vigil (yes, they serve both) so I am extra grateful for Grammy who will save me from dragging all five to at least one of those events. 

Busy, exhausted, sick and longing for my love but still so thankful.

We are blessed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful...Part Five

"He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely."
— St. Catherine of Siena

Today I am thankful for a God who transcends the dark of this world...all we have to do is seek Him. The kids and I have a routine of calling certain sky formations "heaven clouds". They are especially so when there are many sunbeams coming out of the breaks in the clouds (see picture #3). That's when they tell me God is calling someone specific at the end of the sunbeam. I like it. I like that we're thinking about God in our lives. I like that, even when there was only one tiny break in an otherwise cloud-covered day we figured it was like the world, often full of dark and trouble, with God just above sending out His light.

Of course, today, we are most thankful for the mail. A friend has returned. (he runs to tell his sibs "bear friend is delivered!" so sweet)

We are blessed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thankful...part four

Every night Pat and the kids (and me when I'm not off doing something else to give them Dad/kids time) pray a sweet bedtime prayer thanking God for His gifts today then asking forgiveness for the times we weren't behaving as we should. Following the prayer, they each take a turn naming what they are thankful for that particular day. I think it's such a wonderful thing...not just for November.

This weekend was a roller coaster of past and present and future, all wrapped up in two days. We headed out to Philadelphia on Saturday night, rested up, then headed to the funeral home Sunday morning. It was in an area with which I'm not terribly familiar but DH worked there for a few years before heading to Pittsburgh so for him, it was all very much past meets present. (It's a weird thing to revisit a place where you lived your life as a single with your family of seven).

For me, it went even farther back. Back to high school, when I had this lovely man and his wife for Sophomore and Junior English.

Circa 1989 with their sweet little girl

Isn't it funny when you lose someone for a few decades then find them again? When I heard of his passing (he was only 65 and lost his battle with cancer) in my mind came almost immediately...

Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud

By John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

The mind is an amazing place. I also remembered how they moved to Philadelphia in our Junior year and I followed after graduation to attend Villanova University. That decision, like many in my life, was made with all the wrong reasons as a foundation and quickly crumbled in reality. These two beautiful people helped me through that terrible year. So, when they looked at me with shock because we drove 5 hours to visit 10 minutes and extend our sympathy, what could I say? Certain people in your life play roles that sustain you in the turbulence until you find your footing. How can there be enough thanks for them?

Being on the Eastern half of the state and 4 days away from his birthday, we decided to make a somewhat-surprise visit to DH's uncle. We left the funeral home and first attended Mass at St. Rose of Lima.

I have to say, while it was the most energetic Mass I've attended in a while...the pastor and nun shook hands up and down the aisle (with everyone!) before starting the service, it was a bit odd in presentation. I counted 20 pews and there were two flat-screen monitors on each side. Granted, they televise the service and there are also columns (fairly small actually) that block the view but it was kind of strange to watch television of Mass while attending Mass. As DH pointed out, the church was packed full of participating parishioners (nice alliteration, huh, Mr. Fulv?) The Catholic church...universal with little tweaks along the way ;0)

After Mass we hit Party City. Here's what I will tell you. If you plan to have a "decade" party for someone turning a big number, get it done by 60. This place was FILLED with balloons and not one said anything after "60". That's 70 or 80 and certainly not beyond. So, for Uncle Frank, I had to cut and paste as it were. You see, tomorrow he will turn ninety years old! Wow. What an amazing blessing for the kids to see!

Opening his cards

Happy 90th Uncle Frank!

Luckily they had a "9" and a "0"!
It was touching for me to see my husband spending time with his uncle, whom he was with almost daily growing up. I know it is difficult for them to reunite because time has flown so quickly but it is also joyful. He spent a lot of time talking to the kids about his life and fighting in WWII. We were all in tears when it was finally time to leave. It's always hard to think you may not again see someone this side of heaven. I am so thankful that we made the trip and saw a group of people who have been so formative and supportive in our lives.

So, we are back home and back to work. Since we're gearing up for Advent in just over a week, it's good to have had the exercises in patience and gratitude during our trip. It has put us in a better frame of mind to settle down and await the Glorious Birth. 

We are blessed.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thankful...Part Three

We've just returned from a long, sometimes trying, weekend and I can only say that, I'm finding more often than not, it's important to be thankful when patience is necessary in your life.

Before leaving town, #s 1&2 had their last classes at CMU on Saturday morning. It was beautiful and brisk and, after packing the car, we had about 90 minutes to burn before pickup. Luckily we already knew about the secret maze.


Running in the cold for 30 minutes was the perfect prelude to a 5 hour car ride!

DH stayed to hear #2 present and I went to pick up #1. While I was waiting (and waiting) for her, the instructor of her summer science camp came up and waited with me. When we were finally all together, she presented us with a beautiful cup of crystals. They had begun growing them during Summer camp...about 4 months ago! What a great lesson to teach patience.

When we were heading West, after a long day on Sunday (more in another post), we were crawling along the Schuylkill "Expressway". It was about 5:30, we were two hours from our nest for the evening and I was getting antsy about dinner. The kids were sleeping/watching/talking but I hate the thought of eating so late and was ready to "dine and dash" through fast food. I don't like that option but it's better than room service at 10 PM. Thankfully we decided to wait and ended up staying across the road from Isaac's Deli, one of my favorite kids' places to eat. It's still "fast" food but the choices are much better, nutrition-wise (salad entree and carrots or fruit instead of fries). It's not homemade but it's better than the big chains.

Most of the food is also named after
Finally, after arriving at the hotel, eating our dinner, and starting later-than-normal bedtime, we discovered that G's beloved "bear friend" was missing and suspected left at the previous night's hotel.
Bear friend is at the bottom of the picture...well-loved for the last 2+ years
Ug. Well, after a long, emotional day and putting a tiny man to bed without his friend, I was completely spent. Poor DH. He was processing the day on his own and likely thought I was crazy to cry so over a bear. It wasn't just that, though...G was also feverish and putting on a big boy brave show. It was heart rending.

DH called the other hotel, left a message, and called again this morning. After about 10 hours of pleas to St. Anthony, Bear friend was found in the hotel this afternoon and is on his way home. Wow. I totally could have used that waiting to benefit someone else who was suffering instead of causing suffering of my own. Ah, well, lesson for next time.

So, in the end, we all hate to wait (have you driven an interstate lately? or anywhere near Philadelphia/New Jersey?). Ultimately, waiting is part of the human condition and we can't avoid it, however much we would like to. We should all try more often to find useful ways to make the time pass (offering up the wait, saying a rosary, talking to your kids, watching them sleep, hanging out with your spouse). It won't always work but it will always be good practice.

We are blessed.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thankful...Part Three

Tomorrow is our last day of #2 at CMU (cue choir singing) and then we're headed to Philadelphia (story later). As a result, today is random with packing, cleaning, playing and watching videos (sometimes it's necessary...especially when packing is involved). Just because you're busy doesn't mean you can't be thankful!


Today is my favorite day on the calendar...
Friday the 13th is a day that I share with my youngest son (we're both Friday the 13th babies) and, I'm not sure why, it makes me smile every time it comes around. So, in the midst of all the hurry today, I stopped to be thankful for my birth and that of my last baby here with us. Twice blessed :0)


There are many days that I am worn-out-exhausted and having our kids here all-day every-day makes me want to cry.  Then, there are days like yesterday. The day I took the two older kids into town to The Citizen Science Lab for a course on microscopy. How cool it was...the facility and the chance for the kids to interact with other students and learn lots of great things. I know we'll be regulars. What a great service for the city! (They also have weekend workshops so all kids and adults can experience the fun!)

Spending time with other home schoolers at the lab, going to a local college to take classes (even though we're skipping today to get ready), visiting with friends this morning then coming home to watch The Magic Flute as part of our Mozart study, I am thankful for this life that we have right now. I am grateful to be here to hear the questions and guide them to finding solutions. Even on the hard days, it's a wonderful life.

OK, back to packing. Wishing you all a safe and wonderful weekend, full of things for which to be thankful.

We are blessed.