Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Things I Learn From my Kids

Zachary: I'll turn on Jacob's nightlight by this switch.

Me: Well, look at that. It's magic.

Zachary: No, Mama, it isn't magic. There are wires that run through the walls from this switch to Jacob's outlet and electricity runs along those wires.

* * *
Jacob: My paper airplane has too much lift and not enough drag. That's why it flies so well.

Me: Where did you learn about lift and drag?

Jacob: The Wright Brother's museum video from vacation. Didn't you see it?

* * *
Simeon: You're eating Campbell's Soup. That's good.

Me: Why is that good?

Simeon: Well, for one thing, their stock rose on Wall Street today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trains in the Foyer

When we moved here, I put our indoor/outdoor Home Depot black boot carpet in our large new hardwood foyer because that is what I had in the old, small foyer and so there you go. As I was doing so, I wondered what I would do with two of our three area carpets that I liked so well, but there was no place for as there is much less hardwood in this house. I wound up leaving them rolled up in paper out in the garage.

Then I saw this picture from this post at Margaret's place.

Duh, I told myself with all due respect, you can put a real carpet in your foyer now. The black boot carpet should probably go on the covered porch outside.

I had the boys tear the paper off a blue carpet I had been missing and haul it inside to see how it would fit. It fit beautifully. It looked wonderful! It looked like home. The littlest ones ran off and came back with a tub of wooden trains.

Hu?

And then I realized what this carpet meant to them. This was a little piece of Connecticut Life, a pattern in colors they remembered from those days now gone. This carpet was the road map, the backdrop, the landscape behind and surrounding much of their play in that bygone place of happy memory. This was a piece of the life that had left them and they had accepted its passing, but now a part of it was suddenly and unexpectedly returned. This was a cause for celebration and the trains came out to celebrate. They would play here again as they had before. And they played. And played . And played. Everyday now, my foyer is full of trains.

If you come to see me, you may wipe your feet on the boot carpet outside my front door, but you'd have a hard time entering or seeing the now proper carpet in the foyer. I'll bring you a glass of lemonade--it's summer here now you know--and we can sit and rock on the porch.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One Hero's Frustration

Overheard:

Older child in a panic: Where's my sidekick? Where'd he go? Sidekick, get back here. I need my sidekick.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Acorn

Listen,
There are secrets hidden in acorns,
Embedded deep in the bitter nut.

Squirrels, too busy for secrets,
Gather them as they may
And bury them in the ground.

There, forgotten secrets sprout,
Grow toward the light
And tell the world loud and green
In the language of the trees,
What secrets lie in acorns.

(I wrote this poem in high school)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where is Thy Sting?

I can't breathe very well. At all. I have constant back and muscle pain. I can't eat dinner anymore, lest I'm up all night with heartburn. Did I mention my maternity clothes are already getting tight? I can't seem to open my mouth without complaining these days. How could I possibly get bigger than this? Eighty seven days until my due date, but who's counting? OK, maybe I am.

But...

I saw a two week old baby boy in church last Sunday. He was propped up on his father's shoulder just two rows ahead of me, his sleepy little crunched up face tilted sideways. He had a dimpled chin. His little hand rested on his father's shoulder beside his little face, the fingers curled back slightly and spread like a rooster's crest--just as my babies do. How is it that babies are made more beautiful in sleep? I loved him...

I would have been distracted all through Mass, but I really enjoy father's sermons and listened as he unpacked the gospel. "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out to seek workers for his vineyard..." The workers who spent the whole day working were paid the same wages as those who came at the end of the day. I had always understood this to mean that God's ways are not our ways, that He may do as He pleases with his servants and we have no right to complain and that finally, none of us deserves or actually "earns" the kingdom of God in the strictest sense so having worked all the day does not entitle us to more than those who come in the eleventh hour anyway.

Father said all this and then something more I hadn't thought about and that tied in nicely with the reading from St Paul who longed for heaven but (he told the Philippians) wished to labor more on earth, for our sakes, and for the kingdom of God. There was something of a toss up here for St Paul, though he specifically says that to be with Christ is preferable. Father said that laboring in God's vineyard is not fruitless labor. It is not suffering without reward. The work itself is a reward. It is a great honor to be an instrument of God, to work for the kingdom, to be the hands of Christ. As St Paul says, "to complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." In God's vineyard the labor itself is a reward, so who can claim to have labored more and been rewarded less? "What a joy it is," father said, "to be a priest for Christ, to be a father for Christ, to be a mother..."

What a joy it is.

And maybe it was this beautiful weather we've been having, that sweet little baby face two rows ahead, or some happy pregnancy hormones flowing strong, but all I could think is what a joy it is. What a joy it is to be in this third trimester, what an honor. If someone has to suffer heartburn and lack of breath, if somebody has to feel like she's the size of a small apartment building, if somebody is going to have to be sleepless in order to bring one more sleepy little baby boy face into this church and into God's kingdom, I am honored, happy, delighted to step up to the plate. It is joy.

It is my joy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Lovely, Lovely Article...

...and sad. My First Son, a Pure Memory.

H.T: Amy Welborn

Summer Comes to the South in the Fall

"Ahhh, everything is so beautiful. Isn't it nice that summer is finally here?" I asked my husband.

"Actually," he said,"summer is over."

"You mean that last season? Nah, that wasn't summer. That was bake."

Down on the Ant Farm

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Businesses...


...really know how to target their future market.

Monday, September 15, 2008

All Things New

This school year is more demanding on me than any before. For starters, we have more students enrolled in Temple Academy as Jacob joins us as an official first grader and Zachary and Nicholas are pretty sure they are at least in the first grade, too.

Also, we've signed up for more extra curricular activities than ever before. While many people would laugh at my little list of outside commitments, this is a big change for me. I'm a homebody and do best when I'm at home getting done here what needs to be done here for those who live here. Zipping from one activity to the next doesn't energize me the way it does some-- it drains me.

However, in an effort to participate more fully in community life and to offer our children opportunities they don't have at home, we've signed everybody up for at least one group or activity of some sort, ourselves included. My husband signed himself up for a men's group here at our parish called "That Man is You: Becoming a Man after God's own Heart." We belong to a very lively parish here. It is unlike any we've belonged to before. I've been meaning to write about it for some time, but we're still taking it all in and discovering the blessing this church is becoming for our family and the local community. We have a young, orthodox, humble, holy, judicious, and undaunted pastor to thank for the community of true faith we enjoy and the good bishop of our diocese as well. Though my husband's men's group meets at some insane time before 6:00 AM on Saturday mornings (he's home before I even wake up), there are over one hundred men in attendance! They are there to remind themselves of their duties as leaders and protectors of the faith and of their families. The guidelines are there and the teachings of the faith are very clear. My husband can't think anything but that they are preaching to the choir, especially at that hour. "That Man is You!" we like to laugh, but what a witness.

Then yesterday, after a rough day of carrying about my extra duties and extra everything else from pregnancy (oh, third trimester, have mercy on me) my husband called to check in. I think I might have whined to him a bit (I'm being nice to myself here). I might have complained about the getting out the door to soccer and the finding of equipment and such and absolute exhaustion I've been feeling these days on this new schedule and fully expect to get worse before it improves after this dear baby is born. When he asked how he could he help, I had a few very specific suggestions for him. He didn't like what I had to say and implied as much and we offered our mutual apologies for not meeting eye to eye and that was the end of the conversation...

...until the phone rang again. It was that same husband of mine calling to say he understood my frustration and struggles. He said he didn't want to leave me with the impression that he doesn't really want to help or that he isn't listening. He asked me to make my list of concerns. He said we could work these things out together. "That man is me, right?" he asked and I could hear his grin. That man is him and I love that man.

Now, can anyone direct me to a organization with the motto, "Those Children are Us?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to School

Three things I learned in this first week back to school:

1. Even if it is a Catholic book about the saints, I should at least skim the content before reading it aloud. I like to start the day with a brief bio of the saint for the day read from Saints For Young People for Every Day of the Year.

Sept 10th--the feast of the Japanese martyrs began with a truly horrible description of the torture endured by missionaries and Japanese Christians near Nagasaki in 1622. The description was so shocking I had to breathe deep and pretend to take long sips of my coffee to gain my composure. Luckily, this first description went right over the boys' heads, but just when I thought the worst was over, a six year old boy witnesses his own father's beheading before being dealt a horrible martyrdom of his own. This struck a chord with my children. This they understood. I looked up when I finished reading and all eyes were upon me in a heavy silence. One child began to laugh nervously citing the surprising bravery and endearing feistiness of our young martyr. We all tried to join the laugh, hoping to relieve the heavy feelings on our hearts. I don't remember who it was, but one child's laughter dissolved into tears and before long we were all crying on our books. Not a very cheerful start to the day, I would say. Remember to skim.

2. A Tuatara, sometimes called a living fossil, is not a lizard though it looks like one. It is the only surviving species in the class Rhynchocephalia of the Reptilian order. It differs from lizards in that has no external ears, posseses a third eye on the top of its head and has teeth designed for ripping the heads off sea birds. I ask you, does the fact that this information fascinates me explain why God chose me to be the mother of sons or has being the mother of sons taught me to find such things interesting?

3. Two eager little preschoolers can go through $60.00 worth of Kumon books in less than a week, and get to lesson 32 in their comrehensive preschool skills books as well. It is nice, though expensive, to have such eager preschoolers.

Three good questions I was asked this first week back to school:

Nicholas: Do you remember the dream I had last night about a train?

Zachary: If there's such thing as fresh water and salt water, why isn't there such thing as pepper water?

Simeon: If the Vikings named a flat island "Flatland" and a place they hoped people would move to "Greenland" and a place full of grapesvines "Vinland," what would they have named our yard, Fire-Antland?


One thing I am very grateful for this school year:

I am so, so happy that Nicholas has gone from doing this sort of thing during school hours...






to this:


What a difference!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just because...


...I love this picture of Zachary taken on vacation.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

40 Days for Life

The 40 days for life campaign is just two weeks away. Is a city near you participating? Have you thought about how you might join this sweeping and sustained effort to defend the defenseless? Participation does not require your physical presence in any particular location. Prayer and fasting are the foundation. You can sign up for the daily devotionals and receive them by email. It really can be that simple. Of course, you could also do more. There are opportunities for keeping vigil, community outreach, and donations are accepted. Like I told my husband when we read about this in the parish bulletin while on vacation, with such a wide array of ways to participate and since it goes on for so long we really have no excuse not to participate in some way.

Privilege and Service

I live a life of privilege. It's true. Some people in my neighborhood here think I'm a "trooper" for having all these children and educating them at home. I smile when I hear this.

Others I know consider the trials of my life more than any self respecting woman should have to bear. Others still think I'm just crazy. Whatever anyone thinks, I know that to devote myself to working exclusively in my home and serving my family is a Christian right and a privilege. I answer to no one, but to a husband who has vowed to love me with his very life and to a God who died to save me from my sin.

I am a truly liberated woman.

I work for nobody but for those who return my love and for a God who cannot be outdone in generosity. I am paid one hundred fold for the work I do here whether that work be the pains of pregnancy, the labor of keeping house, or the struggles of educating many small children. I am rewarded with a life of abundant blessing and joy, joy, joy like I'd never known amidst the normal trials expected for one trying to work out her salvation in fear and trembling.

To lay this privileged life aside, my right to a life of exclusive service to my family in order to also serve another good, a common good, a public good with obligations and actual responsibilities would be a great sacrifice indeed and one I would not choose lightly. Frankly, I would not want it.

But that Gov. Sarah Palin does accept it, that in addition to serving her own family she stands up to fight in the public square for the sanctity of all life and for all families, to be a voice like none other before that will be heard, that she gives voice to the voiceless and says so well the things our nation needs to hear, that Gov Palin takes on the additional sacrifice of service to her country and does so at cost to herself for the sake of you and me and every American who values human life is no shame to her. Neither is it a condemnation of our way of life. Gov. Palin, as far as I can see, is no self-promoting careerist. She is a public servant and the public needs her service.

So long as Sarah Palin makes the choices she does in order to promote justice and not to serve and promote herself with disregard for the needs of others, she does no wrong to accept the burdens of service to our country. She deserves our thanks and applause.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Outer Banks


We're home! We've just returned from a week long stay at Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. As you can see from the map above, the Outer Banks (OBX) is a mile wide, one hundred twenty mile long stretch of barrier islands off the coast of NC. If you hadn't heard of the OBX already, you may have seen it on the weather channel recently as that's pretty much where Tropical Storm Hanna came to shore.


The soft, quartz sand beaches are amazingly pristine--voted America's number one best in the 2007 "America's Best Beaches" and the weather was nothing short of perfect right up until Hanna arrived.


That's the Cape Hatteras lighthouse in the background.


Hanna gave us some rough surf (fun waves) all week. Enlarge the picture below to see the expressions of glee.


Here are the boys enjoying the frothy surf while looking for sand fleas, ghost crabs, and clams with a National Park Ranger as part of the requirements to earn their Cape Hatteras Junior Ranger badges and patches. This is the third National Junior Rangers program we have completed in three years. Last year the boys earned Assateague National Seashore badges and the Cape Cod National Seashore badges the year before that. I cannot recommend these programs highly enough. The classes, activities, and tours are absolutely fascinating and National Parks Rangers are some of the best people you'll ever meet.


They are dedicated public servants, enthusiastic teachers, and defenders of America's natural treasures. "Explore, Learn, Protect!" is the Junior Ranger motto and the Park Rangers, with their captivating presentations and personal attention, inspire families to learn together, to appreciate the world around them, and foster a desire to preserve our national heritage for future generations. This one Ranger spent the whole morning exploring the coast with just our family explaining many things we saw, teaching the boys about the animals we found and answering questions.

Even if you aren't able to visit a National Park, you can now become a Junior Ranger by completing the Web Rangers program found here.


This was a big year for sea turtles on the Carolina beaches and the egg laying season was slowing, but not yet over when we arrived. Though it doesn't look like much, that heap of sand on the right in the picture above is the nest of an endangered Loggerhead sea turtle. The area is roped off to protect the eggs, and eventually hatchlings, so we didn't get closer than this. We did, however, find the papery remains of other sea turtle eggs at other nesting sites that had hatched in the weeks before.


And we did see this guy at the aquarium. You can follow the path of the Loggerhead sea turtles via satellite transmitters as part of the NC rehabilitation programs at Turtle Trails.


We took the Ferry to Okracoke Island one day, home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the world, the Okracoke Banker ponies, and more amazing beaches.


Okracoke was also a favored landing for pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. Edward Teach--notoriously known as Blackbeard-- made Okracoke his hideout in 1718. Though we never made it to Teach's Hole Pyrate Shoppe on Okracoke (we were too busy enjoying those amazing beaches) we plan to return there someday. Simeon sure makes that dead guy look silly with bunny ears, and Alex is holding his er...that's not really a hand.


These guys are much cuter. Nick and Zach in new hats.


The OBX is also home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kittyhawk where Orville and Wilbur Wright solved the problems of flight one principle at a time until they succeeded.


Here's a replica of one of their early planes.

The museum points out that it was only 66 years after the Orvilles' flight at Kittyhawk that man landed on the moon. Amazing.


Big mouths at the aquarium.


The OBX has as many miles of sound side beaches as oceanside and the vast, shallow, still, salt water makes for fantastic snorkeling. The boys took full advantage of all snorkel opportunities.


The last night of our stay, after filling up on Smores, Simeon and his father took a golf cart to the beach and used flashlights to go Ghost crabbing. This was the catch they brought home to show us before returning to the shore to release them.


Then Hanna made her appearance cutting our vacation 10 hours short (not bad). That's the Bodie Island lighthouse pictured through the rain above.

We did so much, but there was much we didn't do while visiting the Outer Banks. Besides the pirate shop there were presentations on the many wrecks off the shores of the Outer Banks that we missed--including one on the USS Monitor that rests off the shore of Okracoke Island. There is civil war and world war history and markers, Brittish graves and stories of heroism and daring rescue missions. There is a play about the lost colony of Roanoke we'd like to see, too. And there is bird watching on Pea Island--refuge to over 360 species of birds, local art shops, fishing piers and more...

We'll just have to go back.

...but for now it's back to school.