Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Lenten Reflection

Give up complaining; focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism; become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments; think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry; trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement; be full of hope.
Give up bitterness; turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred; return good for evil.
Give up negativism; be positive.
Give up anger; be more patient.
Give up pettiness; become mature.
Give up gloom; enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy; pray for trust.
Give up gossiping; control your tongue.
Give up sin; turn to virtue.
Give up giving up; hang in there!
** Author Unknown

The First Sunday of Lent

Actually, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (which was last Wednesday), but today is the First Sunday of Lent. And for the occassion, this is what we read this morning:
No Lent is worthy of the name without a personal effort of self-reformation, of leading a life more in accordance with God's commands and an attempt by some kind of voluntary self-denial to make reparation for past negligence. But the Church, together with the personal effort which she requires of all of us, her children, sets up in the sight of God the cross of Christ, the Lamb of God who took upon Himself the sins of man and who is the price of our redemption. As Holy Week approaches the thought of the passion becomes increasingly predominant until it occupies our whole attention, but from the very beginning of Lent it is present, for it is in union with the sufferings of Christ that the whole army of Christians begins on the holy "forty days", setting out for Easter with the glad certitude of sharing in His resurrection.
"Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation." The Church puts Lent before us in the very same terms that formerly she put it before the catechumens and public penitents who were preparing for the Easter graces of baptism and sacramental reconciliation. For us, as it was for them, Lent should be a long retreat, one in which under the guidance of the Church we are led to the practice of a more perfect Christian life. She shows us the example of Christ and by fasting and penance associates us with his sufferings that we may have a share in His redemption.
We should remember that Lent is not an isolated personal affair of our own. The Church avails herself of the whole of the mystery of redemption. We belong to an immense concourse, a great body in which we are united to the whole of humanity which has been redeemed by Christ. The liturgy of this season does not fail to remind us of it.
This, then, is the meaning of Lent for us: a season of deepening spirituality in union with the whole Church which thus prepares to celebrate the Paschal mystery. Each year, following Christ its Head, the whole Christian people takes up with renewed effort its struggle against evil, against Satan and the sinful man that each one of us bears within himself, in order at Easter to draw new life from the very springs of divine life and to continue its progress towards heaven.
~from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sad News

We are sorry to report that our hamster, Frizzle, passed away today. She turned 3yo in December. Frizzle was always very sweet natured; never a bite to anyone. She loved run on her wheel and to build nests in her "fluff", but most of all she loved to be held and petted. She will be very missed by our family.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bella Is Home

After 4 days of "running wild" and being gone, we were very worried that our beloved dog was never going to come home again. We called and searched, talked to neighbors ... and some loving neighbors even helped in the search. Finally Bella did come home on Monday night around 10p. She was beyond filthy and smelled horribly, and was starving after apparently not eating for the four days that she was "away". She spent the night in the bathroom so that she would not get away from us again before we could get her to the vet.

So bright and early on Tuesday morning Bella went to the vet ... this was her first visit to the vet. Normally our vet comes TO our house to see our animals, but for surgery we had to go elsewhere. She went to be boarded until her surgery appt (Wed morning) ... and for a MUCH NEEDED bath and grooming appointment.

On Wednesday her surgery went well, and they did her bath and grooming while she was still "out cold" from her surgery. We called to check on her, and they said she was resting comfortably.

So today DadToCherubs went to pick her up at the vet .... she was overjoyed to see him.

Daisy was so excited to see Bella again - she missed her friend dearly. They spent a bit of time this evening napping together. (Photo above of Bella's SMILE, and a photo of Bella and Daisy resting together after Bella's "walk".)

And tonight, she is so happy to be home with her family again, and she is happy to be so clean ... and we are very happy about those things too (esp the clean part after her "appearance" and "smell" on Monday night - YIKES !). She is sedated so that she will be calm while she is in the house for a few days for recovery - generally she absolutely hates to be inside.

She can start going outside for a few minutes at a time tomorrow, and grandually more and more over the next few days. And the vet said she will be back to her "same old self" next week sometime. Now we just hope that "running wild" is not going to be a habit for her. We shall see.
Update Feb 23: This morning we gave Bella her meds and she roamed around the house "visiting" with the children. Around 10am we noticed her incision was a little pulled apart ... and by 11am it was completely open. YIKES !! So we called the vet, and took Bella back to see the doctor. They knocked her out again and sutured her incision line. And we went back to pick her up around 4pm. She is now home AGAIN and is resting (sedated) in the bathroom for the night.
SideNote: While waiting for our turn at the vet today, we had a few funny experiences. Bella is HUGE of course, and freshly groomed she is beautiful too. People remarked at how pretty she was, and how big, but mostly they remarked how even tempered and sweet natured she was. Several little "purse-sized" dogs came in while we were waiting ... they would glance at her, and then get all hunch-backed while growling, barking, snarling at Bella one after the other. And what did Bella do ?? She looked the other way, as if to say "oh yeah - whatever" or she would simply put her head in my lap (she secretly dreams of being a lap dog) and would look up at me as if to say "can you believe this ?". She never even gave so much as a mean look to another animal. She did get a bit "concerned" when a hurt dog was whimpering, but it was completely a reaction of wanting to help rather than anything aggressive. Even the Vet said "I have never met a mean Great Pyrenees ... they are truly Gentle Giants." Well, as long as you are not touching one of their flock, anyway. HA !!

Funny Cartoon

Since we have 14 PET chickens, this humor is particularly funny to us. Thought we might share our "giggle" this time. Enjoy !!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pumpkins & Walnuts

God Makes No Mistakes
(Sent to me via email list)
Oppressed by the noonday heat, a tired farmer sat under a walnut tree to rest. Relaxing, he looked at his pumpkin vines and said to himself, "How strange it is that God puts such big heavy pumpkins on a frail vine that has so little strength it has to trail on the ground!" And then looking up into the cool branches of the tree above him, he added, "How strange it is that God puts small walnuts on such a big tree with branches so strong they could hold a man!"Just then a breeze dislodged a walnut from the tree. The tired farmer wondered no more, as he rubbed his head ruefully and said, "It is a good thing there wasn't a pumpkin up there instead of a walnut."Hopefully, when the breezes of life blow, you will remember that God, Who is great and wise, makes no mistakes. He deserves our praise under any circumstance.

The Robins Are Here !

Yesterday a huge flock of Robin Red-Breast's landed in the Cutt's field in front of our house. There were SO many we could not even count.

It is supposed to be in the 60's all week here - perhaps Spring has sprung ?!?!?

Project Completed: Big Boys Room

We moved the children's rooms around last Spring, with the promise to paint the Big Boys and Girls rooms "soon". Well, perhaps a year can be interpreted as "soon" ??

We finally painted (white - for brightness because living in the woods, in the summer our house is SO dark) the Big Boys room, and cleaned and reorganized it. It turned out SO nice. All we have left to do is to move their table and chairs in there (to use as a "desk" for school lessons), and make 2 simple valances for their windows. Hopefully we can get to that today. We even hung the "BUMP" sign that Cherub 1 found on a trip to the "Junkyard". The boys thought the sign was so neat !!

Next project: Girls room to be painted. I have spot-primed and patched holes ... now just to find some time to paint.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ash Wednesday

"1 As you know, Jesus retreated into the wilderness and fasted for forty days to prepare for his ministry. It was for Him a time of contemplation, reflection, and preparation. By observing Lent, most Christians join Jesus on His retreat.

Lent consists of the forty days before Easter. In the western Church, we skip over the Sundays when we count the days of Lent, because Sunday is always the joyful celebration of the Resurrection. Therefore, the first day of Lent in the western Church is always a Wednesday.

Biblical societies relied very heavily on wood fires for heating and cooking, which meant that keeping ashes under control was a major housekeeping task. Then as now, if a person was preoccupied with something serious, they didn’t always tend to the housekeeping—it’s the least of their concerns. Imagine that there is a death in the family. A friend stopping by to pay their respects might gently say, “Did you know you have ashes on your face?”

So ashes became a sign of remorse, repentance, and mourning. Today someone might wear a black armband to signify that they are in mourning; back then people put ashes on their foreheads and wore sackcloth.

You can find biblical examples of this in 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1-3, Job 42:6, and Jeremiah 6:26. During Lent, ancient Christians mourned their sins and repented of them, so it was appropriate for them to show their sincerity by having ashes on their foreheads. The custom has persisted in the church as secular society has changed around us.

It is most appropriate on Ash Wednesday, when we begin a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection. "

"2 Some people only celebrate the happy times in Jesus’ life: Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, and Christmas. But I think as true friends, we should also watch and pray with Him on Maundy Thursday, stand by Him at the cross on Good Friday, and retreat with Him into the wilderness during Lent. "

Both Passages Quoted Directly from:

Tomorrow we will attend our first Ash Wednesday Mass in 6 years, after returning to the Catholic Church several months ago. God has been working to prepare us for this solemn occassion, and for the season of Lent. So much is going on in our lives, in our hearts, and in our minds lately ... as God continues to work in us and to lead us. We will try to share more throughout Lent.

Cherub 1, Cherub 2, and Cherub 3 will make their First Reconciliation during Lent this year. And DadToCherubs and I will recommit our lives and will go through our first Reconciliation in quite some time. We have been praying and have been waiting for God's direction in this matter. We feel He has guided us to a place where we are to be preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and for the "sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection" during this Lenten season.

What a Mighty God we serve !!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Our New Science Book

"In this book, children will begin exploring the dynamics of flight and animal classification, understanding why the design we see in these incredible creatures points us to our Creator God. Then, get ready for the exciting adventure of learning about birds. Children will learn how to attract various bird species to your yard and identify them by looking at their special physical characteristics, diverse nests, and interesting domestic practices. They will also learn the anatomy and the glorious design that enables birds to do remarkable things. After becoming amateur ornithologists, children will explore the world of chiropterology, which is the study of bats. " (copied from Apologia's website at )

Free Notebooking Pages to go with Apologia: Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day

Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Project For School

We wanted to try Notebooking with our school lessons a year or two ago, but never got around to it, and the interest faded. And so the idea came up again in the last few weeks and was met with LOTS of enthusiasm (Mom too !). So we have decided that we want to try Notebooking ... for U.S. History and also for Science & Nature Journals right now (maybe other subjects as things progress).

There is a lot of information out on the web about Notebooking, and so many types / styles, supplies, and ideas ... the creativity is JUST what we need to bring our lessons to LIFE and bring in a little change and some more independence.

So I went out today for supplies - papers, tools, art supplies (always need more of those !), scrapbooking materials, scissors, glue, and other items. I also found this really neat software too at Staples. The software is intended for Scrapbooking, but seems to can do what we need as well. Clip art, fonts, templates, photorealistic emblishments ... all through my printer after one completes the design, or to be printed and cut out and attached as per the "idea". (Probably cut and pasted the old fashioned way so we can WRITE on them too and practice our writing skills and penmanship.)

The software was an extra ... not a NEEDED supply, nor one I planned for. But after reading reviews on it, we think it is goign to be a great multi-purpose tool !! It is our hope that the children will take more opportunities to use the computer for projects, as being computer savvy is a necessity today. We limit their web-access to ONLY when we are literally watching, so software loaded on the PC is a way for them to use the PC without the risks of web-use. And this is creative and requires thought and planning, unlike "just games". So we shall see.

We will certainly post photos of some of our projects ... our first project (on Wednesday afternoon) is on Skunks because they are "out and about" in our area lately, and we found a den to take photos of ... now we are reading about them in a book we had here in our home library. This will be our "Test Run" to get a "feel" for Notebooking, so this first project will likely result in 5 of the same project ... then hopefully they will show their creative sides and work more on their own after that, juices flowing. I always hated art / craft classes LOADED with very minute-detail moment-by-moment instructions so that everyone's "project" was identical. But we HAVE to have atleast one "for the purpose of instruction" project to get started I fear.

This is a link to software I bought (reviews are great for it - HOORAY !!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How Beautiful !!

DadToCherubs is away this week, attending a class. But he remembered St. Valentine's Day .... above is a photo of the roses he sent. He sent single pink ones to each of our 2 girls (how sweet !!) and a bouquet of red ones to me (how beautiful !!).

Since we knew he would be away, I hid a box of chocolates and a bag of Hershey's Kiss's (his favorite) in the car ..... and he found them this morning after we gave him some hints. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY !! WE MISS YOU !!

Our boys got a special toy, and everyone got chocolates .... nothing says I LOVE YOU like Hershey's, right ??

I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband. THANK YOU DadToCherubs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Saint Valentine's Day

Tomorrow is the 14th of February, the day on which people world-wide celebrate Saint Valentine's Day. Originally it was only a Catholic holiday in honor of a Saint, but both Catholics and Protestants alike (and even unbelievers) celebrate it today. Most people easily recognize th e images of Valentine's Day ... little heart-shaped notes, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, red roses, lace-doily hearts , those little pastel colored hearts with words printed on them .... but few know the true story of this day; a day that honors the sacrifices of a faithful Bishop to protect the beauty of one man and one woman joined together in the Sacrament of Marriage.

Here is what I found on the net about the history of this holiday:

"According to church tradition St. Valentine was a Bishop near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor Claudius II issued an edict forbidding marriage. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. So to assure quality soldiers, he banned marriage completely.

Valentine, a Bishop , in accordance with God's Word regarding the Sacrament of Marriage, and upon seeing the trauma of young lovers throughout Rome, met them in a secret place despite the "law" of the land, and joined them in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Emperor Claudius learned of this "Friend of Lovers", and had him arrested. The Emperor was impressed with the young Bishop's dignity and conviction, and attempted to convert him to worshiping the Roman Gods, to save him from certain execution. Valentine refused to even recognize Roman Gods. Valentine even attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity, knowing the consequences fully.

While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate of execution, he met his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a blind daughter. Asterius requested that Valentine heal his daughter of her blindness. God restored the sight of Asterius' daughter through Valentine, a very faithful man - it was a miracle !! Just before his execution, Valentine asked for writing supplies from his jailor. He penned a farewell message to the jailor's daughter "From Your Valentine, a phrase that lived ever after. On February 24, 270, Valentine was executed. "

Monday, February 12, 2007

More Water Woes

Our hotwater heater is leaking (for several weeks, but getting worse) ... and is in the process of being replaced. The good news ... we have finally located the leak after thinking it was the washer, supply lines, faucets, drain line, and such .... and the other good news is that since we have to replace it, we are "upsizing" our hotwater heater to 80 gal instead of 50 gal .... hot water always being a much-sought-after commodity in a big family.

Maybe after this our Water Woes will be over at least for a while ?!?!?
Update: Feb 13, 2007
The new hot water heater was installed last evening (Thank you David !). And so far, not 1 drop of water anywhere it does not belong ... so it seems everything is fixed. HOORAY !!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

BackYard Bird Count Feb 16-19, 2007

For more information and to register for participation, please visit this site:

What is the Great BackYard Bird Count?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Read what some participants have to say about GBBC.

Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count web site.As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.In 2006, participants reported a record-breaking 7.5 million birds of 623 species. They submitted 60,616 checklists, just 433 shy of an all-time record for total checklists.

Why Count Birds?
Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.We need your help. Make sure the birds from your community are well represented in the count. It doesn't matter whether you report the 5 species coming to your backyard feeder or the 75 species you see during a day's outing to a wildlife refuge.

Your counts can help us answer many questions:
* How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?
* Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
* How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
* How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
* What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
* Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?

Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to give us an immense picture of our winter birds. Each year that these data are collected makes them more meaningful and allows scientists to investigate far-reaching questions.For highlights of past results, visit the Science Stories section of the GBBC web site.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lessons At Church

Since returning to St. Mary's, our children have really enjoyed Sunday School and CCD. And Cherub 6 loves it too ... we were not sure he would since he has never been in any type of "school" setting before. But his teachers have known him since before he was born - HA !! Actually the ladies who teach his class are women we have known for 10 years now - can you believe it ?? The lead teacher in Cherub 6's class is the same teacher who taught Cherub 1 (now nearly 13yo) when he was 4-5yo too. The teacher has spent more than a few minutes telling Cheurb 6 all about his Big Brother (Cherub 1) when he was just a little guy. Cherub 1 actually "escorted" Cherub 6 to his classes the first few weeks ... in case he was a little nervous (which he WAS but would not admit). What a kind gesture from Big Brother !!

Above is a photo of Cherub 1 at Sunday school. He was busy cutting out little Sheep, as the lesson was about The Shepherd .... and he really enjoyed the lesson and the activity, but was a bit annoyed that I asked him to pause for a photo. (no "photo smile" here - HA !!)

And one more funny story relating to church this week. Cherub 2 went to Mass and CCD with Cherub 1 and I on Wednesday evening. After Mass Cherub 1 goes to class, so I thought it might be a few "private" minutes for Cherub 2 and I to talk. She has been having a bit of trouble lately with Cherub 5 "annoying" her. Ahhhh - sisters !! Anyway, one of the ladies at church overheard Cherub 2 and I talking about what it means to be sisters, and about the current struggles between our girls .... and this lady came over to talk to Cherub 2. She went on to say that she distinctly recalled the daily prayers offered by Cherub 2 when Mom was pregnant with Cherub 5 because she was a Helper in Cherub 2's Sunday school class back then .... those prayers to God from Cherub 2 (at age 4yo) asking and nearly begging for a little sister. At the time, Cherub 2 wanted to name her "maybe" baby sister FLOWER, and this lady still remembered that detail too. Cherub 2 never missed a morning or evening Prayer time with her request. Anyway, this lady also went on to remind Cherub 2 that Cherub 5 is the little sister that she prayed for (an answered prayer and an awesome blessing !) ... and that perhaps a softening of her own heart might just restore their "relationship" rather than convincing Cherub 5 to "change" in some way when she is only 7yo (instead of 11yo like Cherub 2). We talked a bit more, and then it was time to come home. I was not sure we had "resolved" the issue even temporarily, but our time was up. So I put it on my "sometime soon" mental list, and drove home. We did chores and cleaned up and went through the bedtime routine here at home. So as usual, later that night, I went in to check on the children after bedtime ... the girls were snuggled up together, hand in hand, heads touching. How sweet !! I think the words of our friend from church infact did "resolve" the troubles between Cherub 2 and Cherub 5 .... I think perhaps Cherub 2 softened her heart a little and found a bit more "love" there to bridge the gap between them.

I had forgotten how special it is to have people in the lives of our children that have known them since they were very little, or even "before they were born". I had forgotten how very precious those relationships can be, for them and for me.

Thank you Lord for these women and their memories and words to us, and for their impact in the lives of our children and in my own life this week. And thank you for the glimpse of what lies before us if we only seek Your Guidance and followYour Will in our lives.

Spring Cleaning Already ?

It is February, and our lives are getting gradually busier with each passing day. We have been very busy these past 2 weeks ... Cherub 1 has a play (Drama Club) that will be presented in February, plus we have various church and church activities, youth activities, in addition to school, and now soccer sign-ups .... yes ... Soccer season is almost here again. As if we needed MORE on our agenda, right ?? HA !! So, after sign-ups finish this Saturday, the practices will begin at the end of February, and the first game of the season is March 17th. Cherub 3, Cherub 4, and Cherub 5 are playing this season. Cherubs 3 and Cherub 4 will be playing U-10 Boys for a new coach this year (not DadToCherubs), and then we are coaching a U-8 Girls team which will include Cherub 5 ... plus we ALL coach our V.I.P. Program.

And right around the corner are springtime, gardening, and weather that makes you want to be outside as much as possible. When Soccer is finished at the end of May, it will be time to start our trips to Lake Oconee in GA to visit with our grandparents, to boat, jetski, and swim. And we also want to take some daytrips / weekend trips this summer too.

So last year we made a conscious decision to get a "jump start" on Spring-Time-Jobs this year, before the activities really get heavy, which means starting the Spring-Time-To-Do-List in February. One of those BIG SpringTime jobs is Spring Cleaning, which is a major undertaking at our house. No surface untouched, no drawer or "nook" uncleaned, and no "piles" left standing. So, in preparation for Spring Cleaning we decided to update our cleaning tools to help things work more efficiently and to be more thorough. So we bought a little Shark vacumn which works great, and does a great job espicially cleaning up the hardwood floors without "spraying" dust everywhere. It also works well on carpet and our stairs, and even dusts flat surfaces - and it is SO much lighter to carry from room to room. GOOD PURCHASE !! And we reluctantly decided to try Swiffer's Dusters. We were not sure they "worked" as promised, but surprisingly they really do "pick up" dust instead of scattering it, and are quite "bendable" fo they catch dust on lots of different surfaces and in "nooks and crannies" too. We were very pleased and will continue to use them for sure. ANOTHER GOOD PURCHASE !! And finally we also tried Magic Erasers. These little sponges are "magic". We have not found anything yet that those will NOT remove (smudges, dirt, scuffs, pencils and pen marks, and lots more) without damaging the original surface. YET ANOTHER GOOD PURCHASE !! But our most favorite NEW tool is the Shark Steamer. We have used this on appliances, windows, floors, bathrooms, tile, woodwork, some furniture .... this thing is amazing !! With plain water it makes steam which is pushed out with some pressure .... and the dirt and grime (and hard water stains, and even food spatters and grease) literally washes away under the steam, after which you wipe it up with a soft clean terry towel. And you wash the towels in the washing machine as usual. No harsh chemicals on the surfaces or "smells" in the air ... and you get a SPOTLESS clean on surfaces. Just amazing !! BY FAR THE BEST PURCHASE OF ALL !!

So, now I am going to start getting out a "few" pieces of spring clothing (mostly for soccer). I have yet to take down all of the curtains to wash them, and clean the windows inside and out. And we need to do some cleaning out in our schoolroom and in the garage. We are NEARLY all finished now with our Spring Cleaning (about 1 week to go) .... everything looks so nice. And before we know it, soccer will start, and it will be time to get outside in the gardens again. We hope that maybe we can also get some of our Spring Gardening chores done ahead of time too (during Soccer season instead of afterwards) this year instead of fighting the heat at the end of springtime.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bible Reading Today: Psalm 139

1 For the leader. A psalm of David. O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
2 you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
3 My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.
5 Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.
7 Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
8 If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
9 If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
10 Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.
11 If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" --
12 Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one.
13 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew;
15 my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.
17 How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!
18 Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands; to finish, I would need eternity.
19 If only you would destroy the wicked, O God, and the bloodthirsty would depart from me!
20 Deceitfully they invoke your name; your foes swear faithless oaths.
21 Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
22 With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own.
23 Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns.
24 See if my way is crooked, then lead me in the ancient paths.

1 [Psalm 139] A hymnic meditation on God's omnipresence and omniscience. The psalmist is keenly aware of God's all-knowing gaze (Psalm 139:1-6), of God's presence in every part of the universe (Psalm 139:7-12), and of God's control over the psalmist's very self (Psalm 139:13-16). Summing up Psalm 139:1-16, 17-18 express wonder. There is only one place hostile to God's rule--wicked people. The psalmist prays to be removed from their company (Psalm 139:19-24). 2 When I sit and stand: in all my physical movement.
9 Fly with the wings of dawn: go to the extremities of the east. Beyond the sea: uttermost bounds of the west; the sea is the Mediterranean.
11 Night shall be my light: night to me is what day is to others.
15 The depths of the earth: figurative language for the womb, stressing the hidden and mysterious operations that occur there.
24 My way . . . the ancient paths: the manner of living of our ancestors, who were faithful to God's will. Cf
Jeremiah 6:16.

New American Bible

Today In History

Today is the birthday of Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder. She was born Laura Elizabeth Ingalls near Pepin, Wisconsin in 1867. When she was 63 years old she started writing about her pioneer childhood in books such as Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and Little House on the Prairie (1935).

Cherub 4 has just recently begun reading Little House In The Big Woods, and is loving the classic story just as our "big kids" did, and just as DadToCherubs and I did when we were children.

Photo: From left, Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls (1870s).

Monday, February 05, 2007

Appliance Delivery

Our washer died it's LAST death last Wednesday, and our dryer has been working at about 50% capacity since before the holidays .... so on Saturday we broke down and went out in search of a new washer / dryer set. Water efficient, power efficient, and "biggest load size" available were our WANTS. So we finally found what we wanted, and we waited ALL day today (Monday) for the applicance store to deliver our new washer / dryer set. We bought Maytag Neptune's because they almost hold 2 "regular" loads per each load, are water and energy efficient, and did I mention the big load size capacity ?? ... in a family of 8, we do a lot of laundry. We generally do at least 2 loads of laundry EACH day, sometimes as many as 4-5 ... so you can imagine the "back up" we have currently waiting to be washed. Anyway, at 830p this evening the washer and dryer were delivered and installed ... and our first load is running through already. So we will have clean fresh towels tomorrow, and if all goes well ALL of our laundry will be caught up by days end tomorrow. HOORAY !!

On Libraries

I found this alarming article in the Washington Post that confirms what I have long dreaded and feared: books are no longer the primary focus or business of our libraries. What a tremendously sad day indeed.

Please read this article.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Shopping Is ... Fun ??

It is common knowledge that I hate to shop, especially for clothing for myself. But after waiting 10-11 years, it was time to shop a few pairs of jeans and some sneakers. So I went shopping all by myself on Tuesday evening ... after soccer sign-ups. No children, no husband waiting .... just a nice relaxing quick shopping trip. Hummmm .... NOT !!

First, I was thinking "it's just jeans and sneakers". That was my first mistake.

The sneakers were no problem - I found a really cute pair of Keds and they were even ON SALE. HOORAY !! The last pair of sneakers I bought were Nikes, and I bought them when I was pregnant with Cherub 2 ... and she just turned 11yo in January. They are now in the trashcan as they have not a bit of "life" left in them. Of course, since I wear sneakers a handful of times per year, it makes sense that I have not "needed" new ones in quite some time. But anyway .....

The jeans were a whole different story. First, I had no idea what size I needed so I started with a 12 and worked my way down. Second, with all the "styles" and "cuts" and "fabrics" available now, I had no idea what I really needed, wanted, or could-actually-wear without hiding my face in shame. So I began trying them on ... and OH MY !!

Let me start by saying that, in my opinion, clothing is made in 2 "distinct" categories - TEEN and OLD LADY. There is little out there for the 30-something crowd that is neither "too young" or "too old". This is just not right, and seems to be a market quite overlooked. And it was a most frutrating situation to navigate. To look fashionable, but not too "teen" or too "grammy" - THAT is the challenge.

Well, I bought the sneakers and headed home after over an hour in the fitting room, and after trying on 10+ pairs of jeans AFTER getting the size situation settled ... and I was frustrated. I need "just jeans" .... it should not be this difficult. And so I requested assistance from some young friends on another shopping trip. I presented my dilema, and they offered to help. They are so sweet ... but probably did not realize the depth of the challenge I thought. HA !!

So on Thursday evening, we set out together in search of jeans - my friend Lisa and 3 of her daughters, ages 19y, 18y, and 16y. Kezzi, Priscilla, and Candace each promised to be honest and to offer any suggestions possible. And they promised not to let me look "silly". In particular, Candace and Kezzi were CERTAIN we could find some jeans .... I was not so confident. We planned our trip to include 4 separate stores (GASP !!), and I offered to buy icecream afterwards.

When we first arrived at Belk, I found some jeans ... to which Priscilla, Candace, and Kezzi quickly took turns saying (with near horror in their voices - HA !) NO NO - THOSE ARE GRAMMY JEANS. Hummmm .... I realized at this moment that I am definately getting older. HA !! So they proceeded "into the racks" like a storm, picking out several styles / cuts in 2 sizes ... and then they sent me to the fitting room. All the while they were explaining "jeans" styles and cuts as if it were "just that simple." As I tried them on, the conversations were so funny. Too tight, pulled up too high, wearing too low, too much "stretch" in the fabric , not fitting right .... all the while, I am totally lost. Well, they promised to be honest, right !! But I am holding up fairly well as I try on pair after pair, finding some that are ok ... and that I did not have to re-hang them or put them back on the racks was a big plus !! But as I tried on pair after pair, I wondered to myself ... whatever happened to the simplicity of jeans ... good 'ole American style ... dark or light demin, or occassionally colored denim was "in". Priscilla and Kezzi eventually went to shop in other areas, but Candace held true to her "first born" personality and persevered to the very end. A first-born with another first-born, but on a mission .... we both pushed forward with determination. (HA !)

So, after what seemed forever in the fitting room ... we found 2 pairs of jeans that Candace says fit well and look great, and are modern instead of "Grammy". Priscilla and Kezzi agreed. And Lisa deferred to their "judgement", as they have apparently been "updating" her wardrobe lately as well. The jeans we chose do look nice, but I am still "overwhelmed" by the TOO MANY choices in "just jeans". But the mission was a success ... we found 2 pairs ... and I learned a lot about shopping, and about shopping with teen girls, and about these particular young ladies - they are so funny !! And it was also a peek into what is coming as our girls get older. Fun times are coming, even if it DOES involve shopping.

While I was busy finding jeans (with much appreciated help), the girls were also advising Lisa (although at times it seemed more like they were ganging-up on her - HA !) .... this kind, oh no NOT that color, oh that looks nice, ooooo those are "filthy", I will NOT let you wear that, and so on. What a hoot they were !! The roles were reversed ... the young ladies were in charge, giving instruction to their "elders". They seem to be able to navigate the place between "too teen" and "too grammy" pretty well though. HA HA HA !!

And so with my jeans in hand, and Lisa's purchases "approved", the real shopping began. I have to admit that it was a lot of fun. Oh look at this ! What is THIS ? How cute ? Do they have it in blue ? Don't be caught dead in that ? We fanned out all over the store, eventually ending up in the shoe department. We giggled and laughed, and poked fun at each other and at the "items" for sale. I never thought shopping could be this much ... fun ?!?!?

So, with purchases in hand we left. And then came the best part .... ICE-CREAM !! And a lot more giggling and laughter.

And after not buying jeans for 11-12 years .... it has become very clear that perhaps I should not wait so long next time. And that shopping will be a lot more fun "with company". So hopefully my "helpers" will join me again. And I am "almost" looking forward to my own daughters becoming teens, so we can SHOP together too after seeing how much fun it CAN be. (gasp !!)

What Is Candlemass ?

Also called: Purification of the Blessed Virgin (Greek Hypapante), Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Observed 2 February in the Latin Rite.

According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) was over the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Leviticus 12:2-8)

Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 sqq.). No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was in the earliest times celebrated in the Church of Jerusalem. We find it attested for the first half of the fourth century by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, Egeria or Silvia. The day (14 February) was solemnly kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, a homily on Luke 2:22 sqq., and the Holy Sacrifice. But the feast then had no proper name; it was simply called the fortieth day after Epiphany. This latter circumstance proves that in Jerusalem Epiphany was then the feast of Christ's birth.
From Jerusalem the feast of the fortieth day spread over the entire Church, and later on was kept on the 2nd of February, since within the last twenty-five years of the fourth century the
Roman feast of Christ's nativity (25 December) was introduced. In Antioch it is attested in 526 (Cedrenue); in the entire Eastern Empire it was introduced by the Emperor Justinian I (542) in thanksgiving for the cessation of the great pestilence which had depopulated the city of Constantinople. In the Greek Church it was called Hypapante tou Kyriou, the meeting (occursus) of the Lord and His mother with Simeon and Anna. The Armenians call it: "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" and still keep it on the 14th of February (Tondini di Quaracchi, Calendrier de la Nation Arménienne, 1906, 48); the Copts term it "presentation of the Lord in the Temple" (Nilles, Kal. man., II 571, 643). Perhaps the decree of Justinian gave occasion also to the Roman Church (to Gregory I?) to introduce this feast, but definite information is wanting on this point. The feast appears in the Gelasianum (manuscript tradition of the seventh century) under the new title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The precession is not mentioned. Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced a procession for this day. The Gregorianum (tradition of the eighth century) does not speak of this procession, which fact proves that the procession of Sergius was the ordinary "station", not the liturgical act of today. The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia (Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691), and it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the "Lectionary" of Silos (650) nor in the "Calendar" (731-741) of Sainte-Genevieve of Paris. In the East it was celebrated as a feast of the Lord; in the West as a feast of Mary; although the "Invitatorium" (Gaude et lætare, Jerusalem, occurrens Deo tuo), the antiphons and responsories remind us of its original conception as a feast of the Lord. The blessing of the candles did not enter into common use before the eleventh century; it has nothing in common with the procession of the Pupercalia. In the Latin Church this feast (Purificatio B.M.V.) is a double of the second class. In the Middle Ages it had an octave in the larger number of dioceses; also today the religious orders whose special object is the veneration of the Mother of God (Carmelites, Servites) and many dioceses (Loreto, the Province of Siena, etc.) celebrate the octave.

Blessing of Candles and Procession:

According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis". The antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion", composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria". While now the procession in held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel". At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, "Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.

Quoted Directly From: Catholic Encyclopedia

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Of the various Christian holy days that take place throughout the year, Candlemass (or Candelaria), on February 2nd, may be one of the least well-known ceremonies in the Christian world. Evangelical Protestants do not count it as a major observance, while Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox churches hold it in high esteem.

History of Candlemass
The celebration of Candlemass originated in the late fifth century as a tribute to the light of God's glory that was manifested in Christ Jesus. The earliest known observance within the Church was in the year AD 496, during the time of Pope Gelasius. In AD 542 the Emperor Justinian ordained that the Eastern Church celebrate the festival, which he called Hypapante, or "Meeting". The name was derived from the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40, wherein Simeon the priest and Anna the prophetess met the infant Jesus in the temple at the time of his consecration. Simeon's prophecy declared Jesus to be the Lord's salvation and "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." This passage continues to be the focus of the celebration.

During Candelaria, candles are blessed, lit, and borne in a procession in celebration to Jesus being the light of the world. In AD 638, Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, proclaimed the importance of the celebration in his sermon to the church, stating: "Our bright shining candles are a sign of divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ." The candles are generally considered to represent the inner light of Christ, which he brought to share with the world.

The timing for Candlemass is also in accordance with the Mosaic Law, which required that a woman should purify herself for forty days after giving birth, and, at the end of her purification, should present herself to the priest at the temple and offer a sacrifice (Leviticus 12:6-7). The Roman Catholic Churches seem to devote greater focus to this aspect of Candlemass, as evidenced by their ritual of the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, while the Anglican Churches celebrate the Wives' Feast, which is a time when women gather with feasting and socializing.

Candelaria on February 2nd

The date of February 2nd places the Candelaria celebration forty days after Christmas and continues the religious cycle that leads up to Easter Sunday. Additionally, it is also the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, which is the basis for various ancient European celebrations that commemorate the annual beginnings of the agricultural season.

Also of note concerning Candlemass is its connection to Groundhog Day, which occurs on the same date. This tradition also finds its origin in European folklore, as a prediction for the coming spring.

For the Church, however, Candelaria remains a day of hope and light. It is a time to honor the Lord as the Light of the World and to remind us that we too have that light within us.

Written by: David Katski

Groundhog Day

In Britain there is an old rhyme "If Candlemass Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year".

In the United States, Pennsylvanian folklore centred on the groundhog, a little animal believed to emerge from its winter sleep on this day to see if it could find its shadow on the ground. If it saw no shadow the groundhog decided the climate was mild enough for it to remain above ground, and human observers predicted an early spring. However if it did see its shadow the groundhog knew it was still too cold and returned underground for another six weeks of hibernation.

So earlier today, in PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania, a new pair of hands (new helper for the festivities) pulled Punxsutawney Phil from his stump this year, so it was only fitting that the groundhog offered a new prediction.

Phil did not see his shadow on Friday which, according to German folklore, means folks can expect an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter.

Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 14 times and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

So - AN EARLY SPRING IS ON THE WAY !! HOORAY !! (we shall see.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Playing In The Snow Pt. 2

Sorry the photos are so dark. The flash can only do so much "before sunrise". HA !! Here we are having lots more fun !! It is now 744am ... we have been sledding, had a warm breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate ... and now the children are out working on a snowman (from a dusting ?) !! Around 9am'ish we will start our school day ... but first we will PLAY ... atleast until the snow melts or the ice begins.

Playing In The Snow Pt. 1

Every parent wakes their children up before dawn to play in the snow, right ?? Well, we do here at Beck's Bounty if it snows .... HOORAY !!


YIPPEE !!!! The snow is falling outside .... can you believe it ?? Snow in the south is rare. We have had only a handful of times in the last 10 years with snow that actually covers the ground. It is 545am and it is still falling, and according to our radar it is not quite finished yet. We have what is considered by most to be a dusting ... and it is perfect. It is just enough for our sleds to run on. The hot water is heating (big coffee pot) for hot chocolate ... and we are getting the children up in a few minutes to go outside to play. We will be sure to take photos once we get outside to play.