Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hooked on Gaming

Zachary explains the rules of a newly created game to Peter and Zach

There is a multi-generational fascination with gaming in our family.  Our boys love playing games of all different varieties and our official game 'closet' takes up almost an entire book case (in the master bedroom of all places!).  But the types of games that come in boxes only make up a small portion of the actual game playing that goes on around here.

Zachary's creative genius for inventing games goes way back to his early childhood.  From the time he could engage his friends or younger brothers in playing games (any game, inside or outside) he would spend the majority of the time making up complicated, intricate rules and explaining them.  Sometimes the playmates would tire of the game long before it ever even started. 

Zachary prepares for battle, using a ruler for placement of the players.

A (self published) author at ten years old, Zachary used The Bloodwrath characters to create a role playing game called QTM.  Several of his good friends took to QTM and some of their playing sessions lasted well over five hours.  One legendary session on the ride to BSA summer camp in Idaho lasted eight hours and nearly drove the driver right off the road!

Cousin Violet helps Grandma Billie with her hand at Hearts.

Peter, Grandma Billie, Joseph and Zachary play a round of Hearts on Thanksgiving weekend.

Any game will do, but the new preferred pass-time for Zachary is DnD.  With borrowed books handed down to him by a good friend who used to play DnD with Tim, and the use of pod casts and websites and tips from long-time players, Zachary has amassed quite the store of DnD know-how.  He recruited a group of friends from his swim team, who get together regularly to role play using the DnD platform.

Zachary's dice collection
Ultimately, the creative energy expressed in devising, revising, and strategizing in the worlds of gaming gives more than hours of entertainment and fellowship, it grows brain cells and develops problem solving and communication skills.  For that reason, on Zachary's high school (home school) transcript, I shall award him an A in Gamesmanship.  And for his brothers and gaming friends, an honorary A+ given for going with the flow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Thanksgiving to Remember {2011}

 7 things to remember about Thanksgiving 2011:
--- 1 ---
On our way to the epic Thanksgiving feast, we stopped off to meet 4-day old Samuel John, a treasure to behold.  His mom, Aileen and I have been friends since second grade, and his family is our family!  They welcomed us to meet their precious newborn and treated us to brownies and soda and even let us take turns holding Sam.  When I held up my camera for a quick snap-shot (or 10), Sam gave the slightest grin, so dear.  If only we lived closer to little Sam, I could fill an entire memory card!  God willing, we shall see him again for his baptism in a few weeks.
--- 2 ---
Our first stop at about the halfway mark between Bellingham and Tacoma was for Mass at North American Martyrs in Seattle.  This exceptional parish celebrates Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, or the Tridentine Latin Mass.  Their pastor, Father Saguto, a holy priest, is from the The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) Tony required a bit of extra coaching and quieting during Mass, and the duty fell upon Tim, who was seated closest to him.  The twins spent the holiday with their momma; and although we missed them, their absence made attending this solemn, quiet Mass possible, and we held them close in our prayers.

--- 3 ---
My little brother, known for a serious life-long cat aversion (and allergy), now owns a cat.  Who could have seen this coming?  Being a cat person myself, I could not resist this fantastically photographic feline, perched on the kids' table welcoming guests.

--- 4 ---
For my little sister, Molly's family, Thanksgiving was also known as 'the day before O'Dea would beat Camas and advance to the state finals in AAA high school football'.  The nutritional boost from the big meal must have helped Niko and Mike and their teammates put Camas behind them on their march to the state title.  In preparation for their big game, the boys watched a few Thanksgiving football games on TV and kept their pie slice consumption down in the single digits.

--- 5 ---
Exactly ten years prior, Peter John inaugurated his new turkey deep fryer.  The thermometer was 100 degrees off, and that poor turkey emerged overly well done (charred).  Not known to suffer a loss lightly, Peter John insisted on deep frying again this year, rain or shine.  It poured!  Donning a full poncho and an umbrella, and double-wielding thermometers, Peter's tenacity paid off and the golden bird was a delight to behold and even better to eat.  A second (back-up) turkey, prepared by my mom in her oven only a few blocks from Peter's house, provided ample meat for all to take as left-overs.  Molly's mega mashed potatoes and Aunt Sue's stuffing balls rounded out an extravagant meal.  
--- 6 ---
Some people are born to entertain, and clearly Michelle and Peter John fit this category.  From the seasonal decorations to endless appetizers and table seating for all, their guests were given the royal  treatment.  The young cousins spent hours playing games like hide and seek, Nerf wars and 'force your way up to the top of the stairs', arriving at the dinner table sweaty and hungry.

--- 7 --- 
Thanksgiving officially behind us, yet our celebrating kept up for another 24 hours as Tim's brother's family was in town for the holiday.  Uncle Craig and Aunt Bethany (both veterinarians) brought vaccinations for our dogs and made a house call to administer the meds on Friday.  Afterward, a few carloads of us headed to visit Tim at work at our pawn shop.  Sawyer was in awe with the assorted motorcycle helmets on display.  Tim helped Sawyer try on each helmet in succession, and later helped Uncle Craig find a bike for Aunt Beth's Christmas present.  Another sumptuous turkey dinner at Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliffs followed, with plenty of pie for everyone and then some!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie for 30 {Thanksgiving Preparations}

Peter, Joseph and Judah peel 24 apples on the back deck.

A truly awesome element of this year's Thanksgiving preparation is how willingly my sons and their friends jumped in to assist.  Granted, the workers who live with me will soon have the great enjoyment of actually eating these pies, but the others volunteered just as readily (if not more so) without any promise of tasting the rewards of their labor.  These are top-notch friends, worthy Boy Scouts, faithful Christians, and the kind of people for whom we are truly grateful as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

Our failed attempt to contain the mess!
 Enoch prepares the peeled apples.

Transporting 10+ pies, 4 pounds of fresh cranberry sauce, 1 table, and 7 people 500 miles round trip in one day for a dinner party sounds insane!  But this is no ordinary dinner, this is Thanksgiving dinner; our extreme measures will be well worth the effort.  One of the greatest perks this year will be meeting Aileen and Rob's brand new baby boy, Samuel John, on his third day of life outside the womb!

 Prior to par-baking the apple pie filling, Peter tosses the mixture.

Peter doses the pumpkin pie seasoning with cinnamon.

The biggest fiasco in our pie baking marathon nearly claimed two pumpkin pies.  I hastily dumped a double batch of pumpkin pie mix into the waiting crusts before realizing that the key ingredients (sugar and spices pre-mixed by Peter on Monday) were missing.  I attempted to pour the pumpkin goo back into the mixing bowl, but the pie crust slipped in as well.   Messy, but not disastrous.  The second calamity occurred when two of the three apple pies oozed over while baking, the burning syrup setting off a set of screeching smoke alarms.  The delicious smell of apple pies was instantly replaced with the raspy odor of burned sugar, and the efforts to air out the place helped lower the interior temperature by a few degrees.  Brrr!

Zachary (oh so willingly) helps measure the pecan pie ingredients.

Zachary's main contribution to the cooking effort included shopping for a few of the last minute ingredients and driving the morning shuttle so I could stay home and bake uninterrupted.  He willingly measured the pecan pie sugar and syrups and although he snarled for the photo (above), he cooperated willingly.  Tim gave the boys a pep talk encouraging them to do whatever I asked of them in order to make the pie baking fruitful.  Those are words I love to hear, "Do whatever Mom tells you!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Almost Advent {New Missals Arrive}

Father Qui Thac blesses the new Roman Missals

The new liturgical year starts next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent ~ the season of anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas.  Retailers might have you believe that we are already celebrating Christmas (even before Thanksgiving).  Not so fast!  Give yourself the gift of 'being prepared' for Christmas this year; don't skip Advent and launch prematurely into Christmas. 

I appreciate the time of Advent for both the many internal preparations for Christmas and the various external displays and decorations in anticipation of the big celebration on Christmas.  Our family will take down our All Saints and All Souls November remembrance display and put up our nativity scene, minus the Birthday Boy, who will be placed in His manger on Christmas Morn.  A tree will be chopped, hauled home and decorated (and made toddler proof) and our Advent Wreath will have pride of place as a visual weekly count down and daily prayer tool.

The new Roman Missals await the first Sunday of Advent 2011

Every year our family helps swap out the old pew missals for the new in the days before Advent begins.  Eager to catch a glimpse of the new missal's cover art, and to be the first to see the new missals, in addition to the challenge of filling every pew in neck-breaking speed all give motive for this annual volunteer chore.  Oh, and wanting to be helpful fits in there somewhere, too. 

Joseph helps stock the pews with new 2012 missals.

If you've never been to Mass, you should come soon!  The 2012 missals we helped distribute include new translations (long awaited, finally being launched this coming Sunday) and all of us will be in the same boat learning the new responses and slightly revised prayers.  Inside the front cover of the missal, you will find a welcome message and a statement explaining the Mass and giving special instructions for any newcomers.  The whole Mass can be followed and prayed using the missal, and the Bible readings for every Sunday and Holy Day Mass are also included.  Come be a part of history in the making, at your local Catholic Church, anywhere USA (and the whole world over)!

 Peter and Raphael haul the old missals away.

Ezra helps re-stock the pews in preparation for the new liturgical year next Sunday.

Jacob stocks pew cards {cheat sheets} with the newly revised Mass prayers and responses.

Visit Catholics Come Home for answers (real answers) about what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Learning to Jump Rope

--- 1 ---
With a reunification plan in place, foster twins Luke and Leia moved out on Monday morning. A few of us shed tears; others breathed a sigh of relief.
--- 2 ---
Due to complications with the reunification plan, foster twins Luke and Leia moved back home on Thursday. A few of us shed tears; others breathed a sigh of relief.
--- 3 ---
Zachary's varsity swim season started this week. We are especially grateful for his driver's license on the days when he leaves for dry land training at 5:45AM. Friday Zac left even earlier and posted CAUTION tape and a "closed" sign at the foot of the staircase where the swim team trains; but his coach saw right past the stunt. "Well played!" said the coach.
--- 4 ---
Due to an overdue cross country uniform, Ezra sat on the side of the pool for the first day of diving practice. In the days that followed, he learned a new dive: the front double. As the sole diver for his team (so far) his performances at meets will be especially important this season. So will his in particular far less than acceptable on his progress report. I spoke with his teacher who admitted that Ezra's grade might improve if he stopped listening to his iTouch during class. LISTENING TO HIS iTOUCH? WHAT iTOUCH? IN CLASS? 
A lengthy, complicated conversation with Ezra ensued; this matter is officially unresolved.

--- 5 ---
During a rousing game of Apples to Apples Junior, I brought out my jump rope to illustrate a point. Who knew I had a jump rope? Looks of terrified humor spread across the boys' faces when I actually used the thing. I guess they aren't accustomed to seeing me move quite that quickly.
--- 6 ---
Never having attended a formal PE class or school recess, our children could not jump rope. Even Zachary could not string together more than two or three jumps. Tim demonstrated his fine jump roping skills, throwing a double their way and speed jumping and twist jumping as well. Ezra, too, showed off his fine jump roping abilities. The bar was set!
--- 7 ---
The pursuit of learning to jump rope took center stage in our home school for Joseph and Peter this week. Both are accomplished jump ropers now, with only a few welts and one broken rope handle from jump rope related "incidents".   
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life With Ezra {Never a Dull Moment}

Tim teaches Ezra the art of garbage disposal repair.

After two+ years of hosting Ezra in our home, one thing remains the same: there is never a dull moment! Ezra's adjusting provides many teaching opportunities; his ongoing successes and accomplishments give cause for celebration.  Having grown up in civil war-torn Liberia, bounced from mom's rural village to dad's city dwelling, then sent to live in an orphanage; witnessing tremendous violence and chaos...  Perhaps in response to myriad environmental, social, and psychological disadvantages (horrors) of his youth, Ezra's personality is reserved; almost hidden.  Chatting away with the boys downstairs, Ezra will clam up completely when an adult comes into earshot.  Not that his conversations are inappropriate, just that there is one Ezra who lets loose when he feels safe and one Ezra who's on guard in the company of adults or strangers.  Complicated.

Ezra's resistance to asking questions, seeking clarification, or following a series of instructions have led to:
  • a sink completely clogged with dirt after Ezra used it to clean his running shoes after a very muddy trail run during cross country season
  • a broken garbage disposal, choked with 12 potatoes' worth of peels (although he had been asked to put the potato peels into the compost bin)
  • a ruined electrical outlet, torn from its socket when Ezra folded up his Murphy Bed with a clock plugged in right at the mechanism's center
  • bleach concentration sprayed all over the house from our new mopping device, after Ezra added 2 TBS bleach when instructed to add 2tsp vinegar
Ezra's accidents and honest mistakes provide opportunities for us to grow in patience, and to charitably teach him how to repair the damage.  He has had instruction in sink maintenance, garbage disposal repair, and careful product label reading.  He has learned to make plans and seek permission at least a day before an event.  He has gained confidence in using the telephone and asking others for rides.  He gets himself out the door by 6:30AM every day to catch a city bus to a school bus to commute 45 minutes to his culinary arts vocational training; followed by half-days at the public high school and after school sports involvement.  We continue to look for ways to help Ezra grow closer to mature independence, and each day Ezra gives us a reason to smile.  We genuinely enjoy his company and delight in getting to know him better, one tiny little glimpse at a time.

Tim shows Ezra how to raise and lower his new Murphy Bed.

Pray for Ezra~

Pray for us!

Friday, November 11, 2011

11.11.11 @ 11:11:11

Joseph and Peter eagerly anticipate the golden moment on 11/11/11 

Sometimes the little things are the big things.  Today's 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11 gave cause for celebration (albeit a quiet one as the twins were napping).  Joseph in particular, loves a reason to be festive.  His excitement for 11.11... gave him motive to complete his algebra assignment before the magic moment.  He also made this the exact second on which he launched his 2011 Christmas Wish List (always a must for Grandma Billie by Thanksgiving time).  The delights found within this simple anomaly in time make me smile.

Happy Veteran's Day today to all those who have served in our armed forces.  Thank you for your sacrifices.  We appreciate your service to our country.  May you be blessed.

PS: The temperature on the clock reflects an indoor reading!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Commended {National Merit Scholar Award}

AJ and Zachary at Sacred Heart Catholic Church
on the occasion of the presentation of their Parvuli Dei Awards
circa 2006

2011 National Merit Scholar Commendable Award Recipients:
Zachary and AJ
home schooled 
Life Scouts in the Kentucky Fried Dragon Patrol, Troop 3
running start students with university on the horizon
voracious readers
outstanding young men.

Congratulations on your awards Zachary and AJ~
Your futures look bright!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smashed Vase {A Lesson in Detachment}

So much for the gorgeous long stemmed red roses!

They were sure pretty while they lasted... but as you can see the roses were no match for 'dirty laundry slinging', (the favorite after dinner sport of one of our youngest lads).

Life goes on...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cute kids... dirty window!

I sent my dear husband (with sons) on an errand to buy our last-minute pumpkins for Jack-O-Lantern carving and he came home with many pounds of pumpkin AND a dozen long stemmed red roses. I think I shall send him out for pumpkins more often! Such a gentleman, I am truly blessed.


Jack-O-Lantern carving took up the entire living room this year, with each of the big boys taking on a gigantic pumpkin~ gutting, carving and perfecting before placing on the front porch. The dogs love to eat pumpkin, so they had to be kept away from the carving area lest their canines leave unappreciated marks on the hallowed gourds.


Joseph put the "trick" into trick or treating at our place, cleverly installing an invisible line with a flying count Dracula. We will call this our home school science for the week. Upon our front porch visitors the Dracula would suddenly descend, giving fright in the night (and the next morning).
Look out below!

Apple harvest 2011
"Luke" braved his first real steps this week, but still mostly prefers to crawl.  His new trick involves trotting along pushing a 5 gallon bucket as his "walker/jogger," sliding briskly along our smooth floors.  His twin sister, "Leia" will pull up and stand with some creeping, but doesn't show any urgent desire to catch up with "Luke."   Her voice is her prize possession, and she uses it frequently!  She loves to hold socks, one in each hand, and will clutch them for hours on end.  If she's fussy: give her a sock, she'll quiet right down.
"Tony" enjoyed trick-or-treating with Peter and Tim; collecting a little bag of goodies on a loop around our neighborhood.  Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff were here for the holiday, but our doorbell didn't ring much this year.  We did have a few cleverly costumed visitors.  At dinner the boys made bets that a princess would be first to our door this year, but it was in fact a football player who gave the inaugural knock.
Zachary ordered steel beams to begin constructing the frame for his Eagle Project carport at the rectory. Several construction-savvy adults have lined up to assist with the complex structure.  Smaller jobs for willing Boy Scout volunteers may come later.  Looks like the majority of the construction will be set to begin.... just at the start of his varsity swim season! 
Our apple trees' harvest this year yielded a few dozen spotty but delicious apples.  We cooked up one batch for applesauce and kept the rest for snacking.  This years' gardening efforts dwindled to just apples and rhubarb, with whatever blueberries and raspberries could survive the bizarre "summer" weather.


Thanks for hosting 7 Quick Takes, Jen!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chainsaw Action {Eagle Project Update}

Sawdust at Zachary's Eagle Project Site: a good sign!

With permit in hand, and a serious desire to get this job done, Zachary and Tim met Chuck, Judah and Enoch at the project site recently to remove the offending branches of the hedge bordering the carport-to-be.   Chuck masterfully carved the hedge in the necessary way, with blazing speed.  He also hauled the excess debris away to compost on the Bakers Dozen property. 

Mr. B takes no time whisking off the offending branches to make room for the carport structure.

Zachary and Judah haul off the debris.

Once a slightly overgrown hedge~now firewood for the rectory.

Zachary's Eagle Project Saga may eventually come to a pleasant conclusion after all.  The steel has been ordered, and another work party of qualified adult builders will soon gather to assemble the frame. 
Perhaps this will be the winter in which our priests' cars are protected from the elements?
Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feast of All Saints {November 1}

A Blessed All Saints' Day to you!
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
Sculpted by Bernini (1647-1652)

Every day when I pray the Apostles Creed, I say:
I believe in the communion of saints~

On this day (today) we celebrate all of our brothers and sisters in heaven, which is cause for a great feast day!  No wonder the Church requires our attendance at Mass today.

Our recent family pilgrimage to Italy included visits to the burial places of so many courageous Christians; martyrs, apostles, virgins, heroes.  May our prayers be joined with theirs on this holy day and every day.

All holy men and women,
Pray for us!