Friday, August 22, 2014

7QT (Vol. 99): Baptism party, our international student, and future gymnast

Happy 4th anniversary of baptism, Peter! We had a small, fun party this evening with all the grandparents, my brother with his family, and a brief visit from one of our parish priests. He was invited by red panda, who thought Peter would like to see him. We lit Peter's baptismal candle, sang a blessing song Mom and I learned from the Sisters of Mercy, and enjoyed yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Yum!

Heesu brought gifts for all of us, including this model airplane (Korean Air) for Peter. He is thrilled with it and very proud of his work assembling it. He is being very careful to keep it out of Anne's reach and would prefer it to be in his sight at all times. :-)

One of our only concerns when we signed up to host an international student was that our student would not like our kids. That is not remotely true! It brings me such joy to see Heesu being so patient with them. Tonight, she taught Seal (Peter's nickname for his sea lion - very confusing) how to play Mary Had A Little Lamb on the piano, holding Seal's flipper to play one note at a time. We are blessed.

Anne has also taken very strongly to her, lighting up whenever Heesu enters the room. I think my kids are going to be very disappointed when she is at school all day!

Anne is a climber, finding innovative ways to get what she wants. Just this week she realized she is strong enough to push her high chair around the kitchen, so no counters are safe any more. I think she will excel when she is old enough to start gymnastics. Allow me to present the following two exhibits.

 Hanging from the shark cage at the aquarium - with pointed toes.

Front support on the shelf - I think she is supporting some weight with her right toes, but still.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Life as a Host Family!

We love our exchange student. She is very social, positive, and enthusiastic. She seems to really like our kids; they both adore her. Anne actually started crying tonight at dinner when H got up from the table momentarily. (We still haven't talked about online privacy, so no name or picture yet.)

H started tennis practice today. With one car, this makes life interesting. We took Jeremy to work, went with H to complete her medical forms and drop her off at practice, went to the playground, picked up H, went home (where everyone napped except Peter), drove back to pick up Jeremy. Phew! We are very happy to say that one of the other girls on the tennis team lives three miles away from us, so we have coordinated some carpooling for the remaining practices before school begins.

H is working against some intense jet lag, but otherwise seems to be settling in very well. She is enjoying decorating her room and has picked out some meals for this week. Last night, we took her to a frozen yogurt place as part of the walking tour of our village; she was delighted. Today, I told her how much I was looking forward to learning with her, talking about her assignments. She replied, "I think it is a very good thing that you have me." I think so, too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

7QT (Vol. 98): Adorable Kid Moments

Lots of my online time this past week has been spent updating the website for the homeschool group to which I belong. Unfortunately, it is all on the "private side" of the site, so I can't even show you how awesome I am! ;-) Also, it means my blogging has suffered a bit. I'll let the kids write this one.

Dad's story: "Once there was a hawk who was looking for lunch. He didn't want a mouse or a chipmunk, but eventually he found a peach tree. He swooped down, sunk his talons, and was very surprised that the peach wouldn't come off the tree. It wasn't ripe. He decided to stay there, hanging upside down by his talons, until it ripened. He stayed there for two weeks, then ate it. He liked it so much, he wanted to eat peaches all year."

Peter's story: "Once there was a toucan who was looking for lunch. He didn't want a mouse or a chipmunk, but eventually he found a pear tree. He swooped down, sunk his talons, and was very surprised that the pear wouldn't come off the tree. It wasn't ripe. He decided to stay there, hanging upside down by his talons, until it ripened. He stayed there for two weeks, then a hawk ate him."

Peter (who says /w/ in place of /r/) decided to teach Anne some words while we were driving:
P: Anne, say doggy.
A: Dah-ee
P: Say oak twee.
A: Oh tee
P: Say cahw (car)
A: Moo
P: No. Say cahw.
A: Moo
P: Anne, no! Say caahhwww.
A: Moooooo
I finally took pity on him and prompted her myself to say car. :-)

Our exchange student arrives tomorrow! Peter has been looking forward to her arrival all week. We've been trying to get the house clean and in order, pretending it is always like this. Today I enlisted the kids to help me clean the bathroom. Anne climbed into the tub with a rag sock and rubbed the baking soda and vinegar. Peter asked if he could help with the sink. "I don't like getting into things I am cleaning."

When I snuck into Anne's room tonight to grab the baby monitor, she rolled over (in her sleep) and said, "Papa?" She sure loves him!

He loves his red panda from Uncle Keith!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Weird Trick for Cleaner Seats

25c floor mat from a thrift store.
Tuck one end between the car seat and the upholstery.
Keep shoe dirt off your car!

Throwback Weds: Peter helping Grandpa dismantle the table for our move.

Throwback Weds: Anne when she was still sporting the two pigtail look.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Where does your community live?

Guest post by Jeremy before he forgets the recent events that moved him to want to write.

After we decided not to move halfway across the country, I entered an "OK, God, now what?" period. I've had a few of these before - my freshman year of college when I hated both the school and my major and shortly before college graduation when the job I'd lined up fell through both come to mind - but this one has been different. In both of the above situations, I essentially made a snap decision (transferring and following my girlfriend to Buffalo, respectively) which worked out fairly well and, because they involved a dramatically different environment, forced me to change simultaneously.

Obviously had to follow this lady.

In some ways, this period has been the exact opposite: my original issue was with my environment, and that has generally remained the same, so I suspect that's why it's been much more difficult to figure out what to do - and, at 9 months and counting, been much longer lasting.

I've had a few friends move into the area, so my social life has slightly improved, but none of them share my faith, and I know that the lack of spiritual connection I've had since college has been a significant contributor to my dissatisfaction with the area. Liana has had great experiences with the Moms group, but there's been very little interest among their husbands in any sort of gathering. Our new town has been friendlier and the general vibe of our new parish has been more welcoming, but I've still not been able to meaningfully connect with anyone. All of the failed attempts at finding community from before we decided to move still loomed large, and I was reluctant to put myself out there yet again.

Two weeks ago, I attended a Cursillo Weekend. I stumbled upon this inadvertently when I found a group posted on a Syracuse men's conference website that formed out of people who have attended these weekends, so I went with my lowered expectations with the goal of finding at least one person with whom I could connect. "Lowered" isn't entirely accurate - I had no idea whatsoever what to expect. They were a little more secretive about it than I was comfortable with, to the point that I didn't want to go other than as a means to the end of trying to meet people.

It's not exactly a retreat; the leadership will hastily correct you if you refer to it as such and say that it's a "movement", but I don't think that's a helpful descriptor either. The word "cursillo" is Spanish for "short course", and that's precisely what it is: a roughly 40 hour series of talks over the course of a single weekend. (Since I don't suspect most people would voluntarily attend a series of 15-hour-day classes, I'm not surprised they prefer "movement".) The talks are all given by local members of the leadership, both ordained and laypeople, and give a pretty high-level overview of aspects of the good Christian life, interspersed with stories from their personal experiences. There wasn't anything there I hadn't heard before from a theological standpoint, but some things were a good reminder, and it was packaged better than most conferences I've attended over the years.

I don't think it's for everyone, but I'm glad that I went. There were positive and negative things about it, but I think the good outweighed the bad. Some of the things that bothered me were apparent during the weekend, and others came to light after the fact when I found out the degree to which the weekend is scripted. Even little things that I had assumed were personality quirks of the leaders or simply incidental seem to have been preordained, and controlling the experience that tightly bothers me. I suppose since my attendance was rather Machiavellian, I can't judge them too harshly for taking the same approach - but at least I was up front about it when asked.

I still couldn't quite put my finger on what bothered me the most until I was reading a discussion online about it. One of the more vocal critics was claiming, among other points, that Cursillistas (those who have attended Cursillo) are more connected to each other than to their parishes. One of the defenders of the "movement" told this story: their spouse was about to have surgery, and they contacted their parish and local Cursillo chapter. The parish did nothing; the Cursillistas brought meals and came to pray with and for the person before and after the surgery. If the connection is stronger, they concluded, it's because the faith is greater.

It was then that I realized that my problem wasn't exactly with Cursillo, but with our parishes.

If our parishes were doing their job, things like Cursillo wouldn't exist, because they wouldn't need to.

Liana doesn't have any interest in getting involved with Cursillo, but she's getting pretty much all of the same benefits out of the Moms group - which was founded because of one mother's inability to make meaningful connections at her parish. I don't want to romanticize the past - I genuinely have no idea if parishes ever had more than a small percentage of active participants - but I'm pretty sure that they were communities at one time, and not necessarily even that long ago. Nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently the Church does as well, since these other groups have rushed in to fill this void.

This reminds me of a coffee hour I was at once.

The most common sentiment about Cursillo I found online was something like: "I don't know that I like all the aspects, but I usually judge these things by their fruits, and I've seen some really great fruits come from folks who're involved with Cursillo." This is about where I'm at as well. In a lot of ways, I did get what I wanted from the weekend. This week will be the second meeting of our new men's group at our parish. I've also found a great community-within-a-community at the 6:45 daily Mass, which I would not ever have considered attending had I not been encouraged to do so during the weekend. I'd been hoping to find some people my age, and still haven't, but the vast majority at least don't treat me like a child, so I'll consider that a victory.

If nothing else, I got to spent a weekend with 50 other men honestly trying to grow their spirituality. The weekend ended with a Mass where hundreds of men and women from all over the diocese came to celebrate with us, and had palpable joy and enthusiasm.

When was the last time you saw something like that at your parish?

Friday, August 8, 2014

7QT (Vol. 97): Good friends, surly dogs, and sleep

Every month, a few members of our Catholic moms group meet to pray together, eat tasty treats, and share stories and laughter. Tonight was that night. It is such a balm for my soul to be with like-minded moms, knowing we are going through similar things, sharing our joys and sorrows.

A couple of them commented that I'm social, despite my self-description as introverted. The thing is, socializing is stressful for me largely because I am afraid of not having anything interesting to say or making someone uncomfortable. With this group of ladies, especially when there are just a few rather than a big group, it's not stressful. Conversation just flows easily from funny stories to struggles to practical advice. I don't feel like I'm auditioning or entertaining. So with them, yes, I am social.

Do you ever call your child the wrong name? I do, even though there are only two of them. It's ok, though, because Peter also mixes up the names of his parents and grandparents, which sometimes amuses Anne.
P: Mommy, what story were you telling?
me: I wasn't telling any story; that was Daddy.
P: Right, that's what I meant. Only sometimes I forget his name.
A (triumphantly): Ha ha! Daddy!


I don't know. Jeremy and I wake every morning with our heads on our pillows and the rest of us in bed under the covers, so I assume it is not genetic. Or maybe we just outgrew it? :-)

We have ambitious plans to remove the wallpaper in the kids' rooms and repaint. Anne sort of forced our hand on this one by starting the wallpaper removal for us. Oh well, it was peeling anyway. I'm going to take the kids away from the steamer and paint fumes tomorrow and let Jeremy work in peace. He got a little bit done tonight while I was praying and socializing, thanks to our friends from church who came over to play with the kids.

We got Babe: The Gallant Pig (King-Smith) out of the library. It is excellent. Have you seen the movie? You know, the one that takes God's name in vain and has the neurotic duck, whiny grandkids, and surly male dog? (And I liked the movie!) The book has none of that. It is simply a wonderful tale. The author has a handful of other stories in our library system; I plan to check out a few in the near future.

P: Hello, doggy! (pause) Why didn't he answer?
me: Maybe he just doesn't have anything to say.
P: But he didn't even say hello. Not even one bark of dogness!

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