Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cowboy Coffee

The cowboy ambled into my kitchen with his cowgirl sidekick (you know, the one with her cowboy boots on the wrong feet). They checked on their horse that was hitched to the kitchen table. Then they hopped onto a bar stool and spoke politely, in manish, cowboy voices.

"Excuse me Ma'am"

"Yes, sir?" I replied.

"Might we have some coffee?"

"No problem."

Their conversation continued....something about bucking broncos. I grabbed a couple of mugs and began to fill them.

The manly cowboy, clear leader of the gang, spoke up: "Make that a latte."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Laundry Conquered. Check.


My relationship with laundry has been complicated, at best. There was a day not too long ago that I was aghast at those people who claim to be "caught up" on laundry and in the habit of doing yesterday's laundry. Or even regularly "finishing" last week's laundry. Just a short while ago, my husband could be heard stating that he "hadn't seen that (shirt, pair of pants, etc) in at least a month". And, as much as I hated to admit it, he was probably NOT exaggerating, at least not much.

Then, I was following a laundry discussion with Rachel Balducci at Testosterhome.com (or maybe it was at Faith and Family? She blogs at both) and I was, again, amazed at the people saying that they actually were in the habit of washing the clothes that were dirtied yesterday. My thought: YESTERDAY??? That only happens in absolute emergencies here! How can that be? How do you even get there???

Someone said something about just focusing on laundry for a few days until it was all done. Then go from there. Sounds simple, but I had never done it. Not once. At least not since my first baby was born, that I could recall. I was always behind.

So, I tried it. I focused for a few days and just did nothing but laundry (and homeschooling). And I was caught up!!! Then, I began doing yesterday's laundry. And then it was laundry for the past two days. But I never got more than a few days behind. And we had one of those emergencies that puts today's laundry in front and everything else must wait (read stomach bug), I wasn't overwhelmed. The emergency laundry went to the front of the line and with a little extra work of the next day or two we were back on track.

Suddenly I could picture my washer at rest: with nothing in it, nothing needing to go in it today, a little check mark next to it's to do list for the day. An epiphany for me!

All that made it possible for our newest laundry system. Each bedroom has a laundry day and there is one day for the linens. This gets rid of all that sorting, then sorting again, then putting away in three different rooms at once. Today was my six year old's day. He brought his laundry down. Put it all in the wash, one load, one temp, one detergent (I wouldn't do that to my own clothes, but it works for most kids clothes). He moved it to the dryer. He took it out and "folded" it. I brought it upstairs and put it away (while secretly refolding it). That's it. The washer and dryer were done for the day. They looked so satisfied with themselves.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stones Crumbling Under My Feet

Throughout our time in the UK we have repeatedly come across the ruins of cathedrals, abbeys, and churches, many dating back well over a thousand years. They can be quite fascinating with their towering walls filled with arched window openings. You can easily imagine the colorful glass that filled these holes, and the beautiful tiled floors that once rested where the grass now grows.


In some of them there is still a slab of stone where the altar once stood. Or you might see long stone benches that once occupied the chapter house, the place where the monks sat to hear their Prior teach, or where they may have recited prayers together.


Mass is still said on special occasions at some of the fallen Cathedrals or Abbeys. But, then again, there are other less sublime events held there too. 


Some are still actual graveyards, with tombs that are marked, though barely legible. 


As you tour the grounds you get the feeling that it was once a majestic Cathedral, or a stunning Abbey. Much more beautiful than most of the Catholic buildings in use today in this country. 

There are many ruins that are just drive-by's for most people. They sit on the side of the road like skeletons. Some of these are just ruined by lack of use. But many are in the same situation as the Cathedrals and Abbeys. 

They stand as stark signs of division. They stand as portraits of persecution. They tell the story of the fall of many priests and religious, the abandonment of many faithful, and the consequences of government that takes power over religion. 

Our American concept of "separation of church and state" is much debated. Most of the discussion revolves around whether or not the church ought to be present in state matters....we fight about crosses and bibles in classrooms and courtrooms, about prayers said on federal property, about Christmas trees in the town square. 

Those ruins stood there when the original American settlers left England to escape a government that wanted to dictate what religion they should practice. And, later, our founders wrote a constitution meant to safeguard religious freedom as well as other crucial freedoms (such as economic freedom and freedom of speech). 

To some, the ruined buildings are a tourist attraction at worst; an historical curiosity at best. Not much different than Stonehenge. 

To me they have become concrete evidence of what happens when government gains power over its people. And a bitter memorial of what happens when people put their faith in government, instead of God. 



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Announcing.....

My Blog!!


Hi Friends and family. I have decided to admit that I am officially blogging since I have come to some level of consistency with my writing....sort of....

So, I have officially put some of you on my list to be alerted when I blog. Anyone else that wants to be added, just let me know.

Click through to the blog and scroll down to see what I have been blogging about.

Loch Ness

As we wind down our time in Scotland we are trying to do a little local travel. Last week we drove northwest to Inverness, the city on the northern end of Loch Ness. On Friday we took a drive out to the Loch. Since we are early morning folk, there was nothing open and no one around when we arrived. We drove the highway that hugs the west coast of the lake. The water was smooth and black, which gave it all a mysterious look.
 
This picture was taken by a kid who managed to capture the feel of the Loch even if she didn't capture us!


The lake is surrounded by tree lined hills. Along that western shoreline is the ruin of an ancient Castle called Urquhart. It was closed when we arrived so we continued driving south. Finally we decided to head back north and try one of the boat rides we had read about. It was an hour long cruise (they offered a "three hour cruise, three hour cruise" but even without an island to be stranded on with a skipper named Gilligan, it seemed too ominous of a prospect).

We got great views of Castle Urquhart from the water:



Of course our only sightings of the famous Loch Ness Monster were on shore: 



There is nothing like a visit to a real Castle to enhance a study of Knights. A certain Junior Knight was in heaven: 

"Look Mama! A trebuchet!!"


Notice the invisible sword in his hand?

Urquhart Castle was a highlight. We have been to many castles during our time in the UK, and we have been known to say "you've seen one castle, you've seen them all". But, truth be told, there are some that stand out and this was one such castle. Part of it was the setting: right on the lake, the hills around. Also, the presentation was exceptional. You enter through the visitors center (where we noticed a banner declaring that St Columba had been to the castle to baptize a Pictish family) and then you have the option to see a short video about the history of the castle. Before the film began a man was passing around real artifacts. We held a knights helmet, chainmail, real swords (though not sharpened) and leather shoes from the time period. The film itself was very well done and gave a realistic depiction of the history. The castle was owned by Jacobite highlanders who fought the English to get their own man on the throne, and lost. The castle was destroyed by the highlanders themselves because they didn't want their enemies using it. As the film ended the screen rose and the curtains behind parted giving you a view of the castle much like this: 

 

Though the sky looks mostly blue (by Scottish standards) it was quite cold most of the time. However the hills and stairs around the castle helped to warm us up. 




And to tire us out. 




Isn't funny how pictures have a way of cleaning up life. You can't hear the screaming four year old who was just too tired and too cold to care how incredible the view was. Nor can you hear the whine of the hungry kids who just ate moments ago but are mysteriously starving again! And, thank goodness, you cannot hear the impatience of the tired, cold, hungry parents. 
You mostly see all the beauty and happiness. 




I did say "mostly" didn't I?

Note to Friends and Family: More pictures will be posted on the Kennedy Family Website. See the link in the sidebar. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Knight's Day

It was a perfect birthday for a Knight-in-training (that would be a "page"). It began with early morning Mass with his Papa. The priest, a family friend, even mentioned that it was his birthday and asked for prayers for him. This, of course, was a highlight and talked about repeatedly all day.

After a trip to Starbucks and dropping Papa off at work, he came home to Knight decorations and was able to open one present.


The day was spent finishing the Knight's Lapbook and baking the cake to the exact specifications of the Birthday Boy: "I want THIS shield Mama".



He had his heart set on Pizza Hut. I am not sure what that says about his mother's cooking, but I choose not to dwell on it....really.
Finally, he opened the rest of his Knight themed presents and we had cake.

We couldn't convince him to smile!

Our boy is six. It is hard to believe. We still remember quite well the noisy baby who loved the pacifier, the serious toddler who seemed so shy, the chatty pre-school boy who could talk all day long. And now we have a smart, articulate, loving boy who speaks freely of his love of God to all who will listen. 
We couldn't be prouder. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

White Week

On the way home, he asked "Is Poland a holy place?" An odd question from a five year old. Unless, of course, you were with us at Mass that morning. It was the usual Saturday morning Mass at the Cathedral in Aberdeen. However, the pews were all decorated in white, especially the first two on each side. The altar rail was also festooned in white flowers with silky material elegantly draped. And soon those first two pews on each side began to fill with children. The girls on one side, in matching white dresses that resembled albs. Each dress had an embroidered patch on the front shaped in a circle, like a host, with IHS in the middle. They had flowers and bows in their hair. The boys sat on the other side and they wore a short alb-type garment with the same Eucharistic symbol on the front. It looked like a hooded white jacket. There were about 35 children in all, including the 7 boys on the altar. All three priests were there to celebrate Mass.

At the beginning of Mass, the young Polish priest explained that this was the last day of "White Week". The Polish tradition began the week before with First Holy Communion. Then, each day that week the children came to Mass in their First Holy Communion garb. The weekday Masses were at 5pm and in Polish. Saturday's Mass was in English, though the gospel and homily were in both English and Polish. Throughout the Mass the children sat, stood, and knelt with folded hands, without any obvious adult help. There was the normal 7or 8 year old wiggly-ness, but the kids for the most part faced forward and did what was expected. They seemed to be getting their cues from the priest on the altar. As the children went to Communion, they each filed out of their pews in order and lined up at the steps in front of the altar. An acolyte moved a decorated kneeler to the top of the stairs, and each child took their turn walking up the stairs, kneeling, and receiving the Eucharist. Again, there were no adults standing in the aisle, telling them when to go. They each returned to the pew and stood until the whole row was back and then the knelt in unison and folded their hands.

I understood why he concluded that Poland was a "holy place". These kids looked serious about the business of being at Mass. At least more than most kids he normally sees at Mass. But, I know from experience that some probably came from families that didn't attend Mass as regularly as they should, not all had great examples of Catholic living at home, and many were probably day dreaming for most of the Mass. However, they had been doing this everyday. All week. They had it down. The ritual was ingrained.

Some might say "See, ritual just makes you automatic in your worship. Where is the heart? Where is the love? Where is the feeling?"

Well, the heart is in the middle of that body that is standing and kneeling and dressing itself in white. The heart is being formed by the senses that feel the kneeler beneath the knees, feel the hands pressed together, see the bread, the wine, the white altar cloth, the priestly garments, the stained glass. The sense of touch helped that child dress each day in their special white garments.

And somewhere along the line perhaps they noticed that the Altar cloth is also white, and maybe they remembered that this was all about the Eucharist. And when the priest reminded them that Jesus was living inside them, even the most distracted child...the one with the least support in their faith at home...even he felt a little stirring in his soul. Someday, he would tell his children about his First Communion, because how could he forget all that ritual?

The ritual, the tradition, gives us shelter when we are not entirely comfortable with the reality. It allows those whose lives still need to be conformed to Christ (ie: all of us) to be a living, breathing, moving part of the Body of Christ, and to get close to that Sacred Heart, Whose love makes it possible for us to live.

So, yes son, Poland is a holy place. But so is Scotland. In both places we have the great privilege of celebrating Mass. And the smells and bells of Catholic worship do give an air of holiness. But that is the point. If we hope to "put on Christ" we need to engage all of our senses in that effort. The liturgy wraps us up in holiness, and we hope some of it rubs off on us.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are you speaking freely?

I just loved this post over at one of my favorite blogs Rosetta Stone. As usual, Michelle is on point and articulate. So, I'd like to freely say.....well....what she said!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Angel Steals Pacifier from Small Child

She (I) did it. She (I) finally gave up the pacifier (which was the replacement for the bottles of water she sucked down each night from age 14months to 2.5, which was the replacement for the all-night nurser she was from birth to age 14 months).
I wasn't sure she (I) could do it!! In fact, I had been putting off the hard part of finally taking it away from her (me) at night, and then my guardian angel stepped in. On the trip that replaced the volcano-vacation, I forgot to bring her pacifier. I later remembered exactly what happened. (cue dream sequence)
We were in the taxi on the way to the airport when we got the news that the volcano was going to postpone our vacation indefinitely. When we got to the airport we had to turn right around and go home. She was very disappointed and started crying (mixed with hints of a tantrum coming on). So I whipped out the pacifier that I had tucked into my purse for the trip and...well...it pacified her! 
So, we get home, the suitcases and backpacks sat in the entry way for two days during which we decide to head south and explore the Yorkshire Dales. So we pack those same, unopened suitcases in the car with some extra stuff, like food and warmer coats, and we head off. I felt completely confident in my already carefully packed backpack and suitcase....and purse. That is, until that night. As we got the kids ready for bed in the hotel, I searched frantically for the pacifier. I whispered to Jim about the missing item and we looked at each other in terror, then shrugged our shoulders. This was either going to be a horrible trip (reminiscent of an earlier trip from London to Aberdeen that was cut short due to a recently weaned 14 month old who would not sleep---she hadn't reattached to that bottle yet) OR it was going to be the impetus she (I) needed to dump the pacifier.

The first night consisted of me laying down with her, while she cried and whimpered about her pacifier. I cuddled and felt awful and mean. She (I) seemed to really need that pacifier! After a while, I weakened and made some comment about finding a "pacifier store" the next day. Thankfully, she forgot the comment and we made it to the next night. Though, I secretly bought a pacifier just in case this next night was HORRIBLE.

Night two was much the same as night one, though she seemed a little more resigned to the fact that the pacifier just wasn't here. I could tell she was envisioning her bedroom with the pacifier sitting next to her pillow.

Night three.....a bit better. She whimpered a little and drifted off to sleep. When she woke at night I did lay down with her, but she fell back to sleep quickly.

Night four....by this time so many fun things had happened that bedtime conversation was full of talk of her "pet sheep", James Herriot, the "cow with the face", horses, castles, ice cream. The pacifier was all but forgotten. She (I) had made it....it seemed.

But, on the long drive home, as I pondered my sweet, strong-willed, four year old girl, I realized she would not let this drop so easily. The real battle lay at home. As soon as we arrived at home, I took a quick load of stuff in and ran around the house locating every last pacifier I could find. They were quickly stashed in my top drawer. Mission accomplished.

Now, the battle lay ahead...I thought.

The first night, she put up only a small fuss. Her last words before she drifted off were "I want to be three!" (only she pronounced it "free")....and she (I) was. Thank you my dear Guardian Angel.