Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ski 2 Sea {Race}

Another spill in the canoe!
At the end of the 18 mile course Tim paddles to shore, where the mountain bike leg begins.

Adding excitement and danger to the 2011 Ski 2 Sea race, Tim and Josh's canoe flipped.  Shocked by the extremely cold Nooksack River, but able to keep their wits about them, they held on to the canoe and their paddles.  With limited assistance from the rescue units posted at the known danger zone, they were righted, bailed out, and back on the course with a only a 30 minute delay. Losses included one crock and a pair of sunglasses, neither of which was missed as much as the 30 minutes!

Strangely, a heckler with a megaphone was positioned on the shores of the river at the sight of the canoe flip (a predicted hazard along the Nooksack River), and appointed himself the sarcastic narrator for the play by play when canoes overturned. His unkind and not-too-funny comments put an added dose of humiliation upon our shocked and frozen canoeists as they regained their composure before shoving off to complete the race.

Peter, Joseph and our little friend B. await Tim's arrival in the canoe on the shores of the Nooksack River in Ferndale.

Friendly competitors, Alain and Darin bring home their canoe as their mountain biker takes the wristband to begin his leg.
On water so choppy the kayak course was cancelled shortly after her departure, Tanya (#144) reaches the final finish line at Marine Park in Bellingham; completing the final miles of the 100 mile, 7-leg Ski 2 Sea Race.

On his Ski 2 Sea debut, Zachary (16) ran the 8 mile, 2,200 foot drop between the skiing legs and the road biking leg.  Ezra also competed in the run, placing 98th out of 500 runners! His photo here.
Our 2011 Ski to Sea Team:
Mark, Tanya, Tim, Eric, Kristy, Josh, Will and Zac 

The party after the race, hosted by Tim's parents, provided the 8 members of our team with a chance to share their adventures and memories from each leg, and to compare bruises and sore muscles.   Already the talk turned to which leg each person would (and would not) be interested in doing next year, in the 101st Ski to Sea race. 

Team captain Eric gave a nice recap for the team's performance in this year's S2S race:
Well, that was great fun (despite another canoe dunking and a mountain bike course I would consider sadistic) and lucky weather (with the exception of rough winds for the boats). We're nicely in the upper half of teams, 226th of 500 overall and 60th of 157 in the rec open division. We moved that wristband 100 miles in 10 hours, and I say that's pretty good by any standard.
I will second that
Great work team!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ski 2 Sea {100th Anniversary}

Grand Parade

Ski 2 Sea Grand Parade entry #6:
Iwo Jima representation, featuring our Boy Scouts as volunteer WW2 soldiers.

Judah prepares to lead the charge.

Collin and Joseph hold the pose.

Joseph and Peter below Judah; all hands on the American Flag

The local Marine Auxiliary needed a few brave young men (with short hair) to play the parts of the six Iwo Jima soldiers from the iconic monument of the placing of the US Flag after a hard-won victory in WW2. Joseph volunteered his patrol; 3 phone calls and two hair cuts later; plus two eager younger brothers in the mix, the six Scouts were cast for their roles in the Ski 2 Sea Grand Parade.

Sixth in the parade, and front page news in the local newspaper, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve in uniform.   The kind Marine Veteran who trained and directed their reenactment also took the time to share the history of the Iwo Jima moment, and explain why the victory was so bittersweet.  THIS is how we like to study our homeschool history... in action!

Update on Apollo:
Home from hospital, recovering.
Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Apollo {Prayer Request}

Ezra's sister, Keziah, kisses baby brother Apollo on the day he came home from the hospital.

Today Ezra's youngest brother, Apollo (11mos.), is in hospital with RSV and pneumonia.  He's suffered some difficult days in his young life, not the least of which was his traumatic birth.
Please join our prayers for Apollo's full recovery, and for his family's peace and comfort at this difficult time.

St. Apollo, pray for Apollo and his family.
St. Philip Neri, pray for Apollo and his family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Note from Ezra

What does this morning's note reveal about Ezra?

  • Ezra missed the school bus this morning. (Probably an alarm clock glitch; Ezra almost never misses the bus.)
  • Ezra decided to R (ride?) his bike to school.
  • Ezra has a phone number?  (No, I think Ezra was being funny.)
  • Ezra solved his own transportation problem, and made sure to communicate (as required) a change of plans.
Way to go, Ezra.
Safe travels...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ezra's 19 {Celebrating in Style}

Ezra celebrates his 19th birthday with a bowl of ice cream.

Ezra doesn't ask us for much. In fact, Ezra limits his conversations with adults to a bare minimum. We don't take it personally (usually), but we do continually encourage him to expand his communication skills.  Out of the blue a week ago he approached me and asked if he could host a movie night to celebrate his birthday. In an effort to help him develop better step-by-step planning skills, I required him to write up a proposal with all the details and his guest list so that Tim and I could discuss it before a decision was made.

The guest list, proposed date and time, as well as the top two movie titles were listed on Ezra's movie night proposal.  Fine evidence of a well thought-out beginning of a plan for a low key gathering at our house; we gave him the go-ahead. Phone calls were made, brothers and friends from Scouts and youth group were invited and told, "bring a snack to share during the movie."

Party planning 101 behind him, Ezra soon began party planning 201. Not a little shocked to learn that since it was HIS party, HE would be the one responsible for the dinner menu, he suggested pizza. We let him know that the cost of pizza was prohibitive, and guided him toward a more cost efficient (and home cooked) alternative. Ezra chose pulled pork sandwiches, watermelon, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Ezra wrote the shopping list, selected the items at the store, prepared the meat, cooked it overnight in the crock pot and even led a blessing before dishing up and serving the sandwiches to his 10 guests. 

Ezra trims the pork before slow cooking

A rough and rowdy game of soccer out front before dinner

Ezra serves his guests pulled pork sandwiches and watermelon.

Since neither of his movie titles were in our (limited) collection, Ezra had to figure out (with coaching) how to get the desired DVD in time for the screening on party night.  At first he seemed downright shocked to learn that the movie wouldn't just appear out of thin air! The library's copies were all checked out by the time he got down to business, and several attempts at looking up movie stores in the phone book were fruitless at first attempt.  But Ezra persevered, making many phone calls with varying success rates until he was able to locate a copy of the DVD.  With only hours before the showing, Ezra hopped on his bike and rode downtown.  He found the place using a street address he got over the phone, opened an account, and rented the DVD with birthday money from his grandparents and brought it home.  (This required great courage on his part, and he almost didn't do it out of fear of not being able to find the place.)

D--, Enoch, T--, Judah, Zachary, Peter, Ezra, Joseph, Boaz, Chris and Kevin

Planning and preparing behind him, with his guests on site, Ezra orchestrated a game of "football" (soccer) before calling everyone to the table.  The big screen (projector) showing of Percy Jackson {not to be shown here again} captivated the gang and the assorted snacks were passed around and shared.  Afterwards Ezra and company ate homemade ice cream and cookies, before saying goodnight.  Heading to bed for the night, Ezra went out of his way to come find us and say, "Thank you for letting me have a movie night to celebrate my birthday." 

Blacked out windows and rearranged furniture were all part of the plan for Ezra's movie night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Italy Day 24 {Rome to Home}

Basilica of St. Peter at dusk

Come Holy Spirit!

Peter, Bridget, Tim and Joseph in St. Peter's Square on the day before our departure

Approaching Rome for a final 2 night's stay before our departure for the US, we drove to our hotel in under four wrong turns.  Located within a 10 minute walk of the Vatican, we were happily back in our old stomping grounds.  By God's grace, just as we ventured out of our hotel to buy a large cardboard box to package a newly acquired treasure (Icon of St. Lucia) for the flight home, a set of giant doors opened adjacent to our bus stop, and a sister wearing a great red cross upon her white habit appeared.  Next to her, a hospital employee carrying a dozen large cardboard boxes, bound for recycling.  Slightly stunned, we asked if we could take the boxes, and they gladly agreed.  Mission accomplished!

Our final day in Rome gave us an opportunity to re-visit a few of our absolute favorite places:

  • Basilica of St. Praessade: section of the pillar upon which Christ was scourged; St. Charles Borromeo's chair; unbelievable Byzantine mosaics; place where St. Bridget of Sweden came to pray
  • St. Mary Major: mosaic of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Santa Maria Della Vittoria: Bernini's marble masterpiece of St. Teresa in Ecstasy
  • St. Peter's Basilica: Apse Chair of St. Peter, Tomb of Blessed John Paul II, Pieta
  • Santa Susanna: Palm Sunday Anticipatory Mass in English 
Joseph and Peter with Cardinal Martino, whom they met at St. Peter's Basilica.

Mosaic of the Coronation at St. Praessade, Rome, Italy

Scaling the Vatican walls... Peter and Joseph on their final day in Rome

Speeding to the airport as passengers of a (deranged) Roman taxi driver after dark is an experience we will never forget.  Hitting speeds of over 110 MPH, careening up on slower vehicles as if they would evaporate before collision, our airport transport was surreal.  We survived to tell the tale, and it proved to be an exhilarating way to cap off our Italian adventure.  

  • There's nothing like a pile of cardboard and a roll of packaging tape to construct make-shift luggage.
  • A bit of TLC applied to the bruises on a rental car could save a lot of dough.
  • God is SO GOOD!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Italy Day 23 {Siena}

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, Siena, Italy

Crowds gathered at the entrance to Cattedrale dell'Assunta, Siena, Italy 

 Bridget and Joseph near the entrance to the Baptistry of San Giovanni, Siena, Italy

 View of the Duomo from our room at Alma Domus, Siena, Italy

Medieval Siena, jewel of Italy
Finding our way into Siena by car involved four failed attempts; but following the soccer ball icon to the stadium proved to be a successful entry method, much to our relief.  An ancient city, Siena offers no passage for visitors' vehicles.  Massive parking areas lined the outer city limits; from there we ventured on foot (about a mile) to find our room at the Alma Domus, directly below St. Dominic's Basilica.  Our simple room had four comfortable single beds, a mini-kitchen, table and bathroom with micro-shower.  The view of Siena's famous Duomo from our window filled our room with grandeur.

Sickness struck again, this time with Peter as the victim. Though I offered to take my turn as resident nurse, Tim again requested the duty; both as a day of rest and as an honor to do a job I most often get to do while he's at work. My amazing husband; we are so blessed by his fatherhood.  Peter and Tim stayed in the room, resting and recovering for most of the day. 

Joseph and I ventured out to discover the treasures of Siena, beginning at the house of St. Catherine which was just below (perhaps even attached to) our hotel. In this place, this holy place where St. Catherine prayed and lived, Joseph and I enjoyed solitude and silence, taking in the tremendous beauty of the murals depicting scenes from St. Catherine's life.  My favorite (below) depicts St. Catherine receiving a wedding ring from Christ, accompanied by our Blessed Mother, witnessed by saints and angels. 

St. Catherine of Siena, bride of Christ

St. Catherine cut her hair and put aside her fancy clothing as an act of modesty, to shun the worldly attention of potential suitors and devote her life to Christ.

The youngest of twenty five children, St. Catherine of Siena consecrated her virginity and her entire life to Christ at the age of seven.  From her her earliest years she spent hours every day in prayer, and could see guardian angels!  She received the habit of a Dominican tertiary at the age of seventeen, and though she died in her early thirties, made (and indeed continues to make) a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals and upon the Holy Catholic Church.  St. Catherine's writings are ever pertinent; her wisdom far reaching and magnificent!
"O inestimable charity! Even as You, true God and true Man, gave Yourself entirely to us, so also You left Yourself entirely for us, to be our food, so that during our earthly pilgrimage we would not faint with weariness, but would be strengthened by You, our celestial Bread. O man, what has your God left you? He has left you Himself, wholly God and wholly Man, concealed under the whiteness of bread. O fire of love! Was it not enough for You to have created us to Your image and likeness, and to have recreated us in grace through the Blood of Your Son, without giving Yourself wholly to us as our Food, O God, Divine Essence? What impelled You to do this? Your charity alone. It was not enough for You to send Your Word to us for our redemption; neither were You content to give Him us as our Food, but in the excess of Your love for Your creature, You gave to man the whole Divine essence . . ." --Saint Catherine of Siena
Siena, Italy

These walls were made for climbing!

Sadly, Siena (like Venice) operates turn-style paid-only admission to several prominent Churches.  Perhaps the majority of visitors to these sacred places are simply seeking great views of the breath-taking art; but for pilgrims who come to pray and worship, being turned away at the entrance for lack of admission is shocking and very disturbing to say the least.  As members of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church; we belong to the living body of Christ.  How then, could we be denied entrance during business hours?

We were allowed free entrance to these "pay to enter" Churches for Mass; though on one occasion the guard pretended he did not know what we were talking about, "Not open, not open!" When he finally relented and let us enter for Mass, he repeated at least three times, "Sacristy ONLY, no Cathedral!" Perhaps he is employed to make sure our attendance at Mass was not simply a ruse at getting free admission to the "art gallery?"  He was by far the least welcoming "greeter" we have ever encountered at the doors of a Church.   The crowd for Holy Mass was small; the crowds amassing for admission at tour time large: something is definitely wrong with this picture. 

Please join our prayers for our Church that the lively faith of her members will increase and the secular attempts to commercialize her sacred-ness and capitalize on her beauty will be overturned like the tables of the money changers in the temple area! 

  • Lacking the enthusiasm to tromp all over Siena searching for a restaurant at dinner time, we decided to eat at the very closest restaurant (a few steps from our room).
  • The entire restaurant (inside and out) was unoccupied; the waiters were hanging around, visiting with one another.
  • When we asked to be seated, we were shocked at the reply: "Do you have a reservation?"
  • By 8PM, the place was completely packed, and we were the odd foursome seen deserting our table at the beginning of the Italian dinner hour (having completed our meal, we were heading for the room).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Italy Day 22 {Padua}

Pilgrims at La Basilica del Santo Antonio, Padua, Italy

Praying at the tomb of St. Anthony of Padua, a pilgrimage site visited by millions, was truly a highlight of our time in Padua.  St. Anthony of Padua, known as a tremendous teacher of the Gospel, and having the gift of miracles (1 Corinthians 12: 9-10) brings many souls closer to Christ every day by his powerful prayers to God on our behalf.  A constant stream of pilgrims flows through basilica in Padua, giving thanks to God for the gift of St. Anthony and asking St. Anthony's intercession for their intentions.

View of Padau from our hotel window near the Padua train station, Italy

Basilia of St. Anthony, Padau, Italy

The reliquary inside the Basilica of St. Anthony contained dozens of sacred relics, and is appropriately named the "Treasury Chapel."  Crowded, but with a hushed silence, the reliquary was a place where awe and wonder at the many miraculous gifts from God floods a pilgrim's soul.  To merely list the items on display or to describe the sights in writing simply cannot convey the pure joy and wonder we felt in witnessing up-close this physical evidence of God's amazing works.

Sights in Padua beyond the basilica included an over-abundance of bicycles.  No where in Italy did we see anything like the cycling presence in Padua.  At the train station, a bicycle storage area held literally hundreds of bicycles.  On every street there were cyclists of every age (except children) pedaling along to their destinations. 

Elderly cyclist captured on the sly-cam as we walked along the sidewalk in Padua, Italy.
Our dinner at a table in an outdoor square in Padua ended abruptly when the wind picked up and the debris from the city streets began blowing into our eyes (and food).  A storm was brewing, and our request to move to an indoor table was met with polite acceptance, though it was an ordeal for our server to relocate us and our meals and beverages.  Walking to our hotel in a light drizzling rain after our meal, we appreciated the fact that our entire trip to this point had been blessed with gorgeous weather.  We watched a lightening storm from our hotel room window, and repeatedly assured Peter at bedtime that the hotel was really and truly safe from lightening attacks. 

  • Who knew how excited we would be to see cold milk offered at breakfast?
  • Ordering a "double" cappuccino often results in being served two cappuccinos, rather than one cappuccino with two shots of espresso.
  • Reading travel guides (rather than just carrying them) and studying about a location before arrival could save hours of needless chaos and strife!
Do's and Don'ts: posted at the front entrance to the Basilica of St. Anthony, Padua, Italy

Friday, May 6, 2011

Italy Day 21 {Venice}

Joseph lights a candle at the grave of St. Lucy in Venice, Italy.

Looking past the main altar (which was missing due to reconstruction efforts) toward the grave of St. Mark, inside St. Mark's Basilica.

Entering the stream of traffic on the sidewalk outside the door of our hotel in Padau was like jumping into a raging river.  Just a few blocks' walk to the train station, we rushed along single file, dodging the incoming foot traffic streaming into Padua for the day.  We purchased our tickets to Venice from a self-serve kiosk for about 10 Euros each, and found the platform.  While waiting for departure, we met a friendly military family (wearing Cougar gear) from Tacoma.  On respite from a post in Germany, their group's journey to Venice began with a 2.5 hour bus ride from Pisa to Padua.  How fortunate we were to have had our home base in Padua (right next to the train station) before beginning our Venetian experience with a 35 minute ride.

Our picnic lunch in Venice.... sshh, don't tell the picnic police!

Stepping out of the train station Venezia Santa Lucia onto the shores of the Venetian canal felt a bit like entering Disneyland: grand, surreal, CROWDED, loud, chaotic; beautiful in an urban sense with glimpses of natural beauty in the winding waterways...and places to spend money every few steps.  The shores of Venice were lined with water taxis and gondolas, but we set out on foot, hoping to find St. Lucia at San Geremia's Church before the noon closure.   Only one wrong canal crossing (and a purchased map) later we found Santa Lucia and entered what would become our favorite place in all of Venice.  We started our day with St. Lucy in prayer, lighting candles for loved ones and praying for the intercession of St. Lucy; and we ended our day there, at the 6PM daily Mass.

In between visits to St. Lucy we:
  • enjoyed an illegal picnic on a side street along a canal
  • took an overpriced canal tour in a fancy gondola
  • maneuvered single file along choked pedestrian only streets
  • prayed at St. Mark's, St. Salvadore's, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino's Churches
  • made two espresso stops in order to have the use of toilet facilities
  • refused to pay 2 Euros at the turnstile inside St. Mark's Basilica to visit his grave
  • gawked at the amount of garbage blowing around the square near St. Mark's
  • got gelato from a surly clerk
  • watched the "working Venice;" intrigued with the adaptations for the aquatic environs
  • posed for and took many photos with the sights of Venice around us

Something to ask St. Lucy in prayer:
Saint Lucy, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin.
By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of all men.
Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions.