Sunday, May 31, 2020

Joseph's First Holy Communion

Saturday-Sunday, Days #77-78 of Phase 2 of Reopening

We request continued prayers for my husband's mother D. She is recovering, now in a long-term, acute care facility, from COVID-19 and hasn't been home in eight weeks. We value communicating with her via FaceTime as often as the facility will facilitate, which is almost every day.

Saturday was a busy day of errands for us, but one was particularly fun and could hardly be called an errand: a local homeschooling store is moving locations, so was having a 25%-off-everything sale, when its prices on used curriculum are already 25-75% off retail. I enjoyed buying some books that the kids and I are still poring over.

Also, we had a delightful phone conversation with Grandmom who just learned how to use her new tracheotomy speaking valve! Her voice is quiet and hoarse but unmistakably clear and she laughed, calling herself, "Grandmom Frog." She is recovering from COVID and we appreciate so much the many prayers.

Facetime with Grandmom

Because our Mass is at 12:30 and we often are not home until 3:00 or 4:00, we tend to have celebratory dinners for Sunday events on Saturday. Our fancier-than-normal meal to celebrate the vigil of Joseph's First Holy Communion was:

  • Honeybaked ham
  • Fettucine Alfredo
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Peas
  • Rolls

After dinner, the kids went swimming and I served cookies and ice cream to round out the fun. When they all went to sleep, I decorated the eating area for Joseph to see upon waking!

Fun breakfast menu:

  • Croissants
  • Leftover Honeybaked ham
  • Fried eggs
  • Watermelon and strawberries
  • Homemade whipped cream

Joseph was able to open one gift before Mass: we bought him a new brown scapular, hand sewn by Tracy Cruz to commemorate both First Holy Communion and the twin hearts, as well as the red for the Feast of the Pentacost on which Joseph would be receiving. Before the Mass, the communicants were enrolled in the brown scapular.

While my husband and oldest two had been to a couple of Masses, this was the first one back for me and all the other children. Getting ready to go somewhere all together--and look our best for photos!--was a challenge and I felt rusty. I did not recall that our children have only occasionally worn shoes for three months and never worn socks, so the four-year-old, in particular, threw fits over BUMPS IN HIS SOCKS. I got the two-year-old all dressed and had basically carried him everywhere until we arrived at Mass and were walking to have our professional photographs taken. David kept falling down like a drunken sailor until I realized that he truly has not worn shoes all this time. He was unable to wear shoes while he had a cast on his leg for four weeks, and he still is not wearing shoes because his one foot is still very stiff and pointing jaunty to the side. He simply couldn't walk in the shoes at all! It was kind of like if you put hard sole shoes on your cat to see what would happen: ha!

[I will edit this to add in all the professional photos when they are ready!]

At church, Joseph asked to light a candle for Grandmom's recovery, so we did.

Due to the social distancing required by the parish, we had our own pew reserved and Joseph was instructed to hang his banner there. At our parish, this week during Phase 2, only 140 people are allowed in the church itself. The staff had put four tents outside, some chairs, and a big bucket of ice waters for the few dozen sitting outside in the humid heat. Indoors, every other pew was roped off with a pretty ribbon, and family units were instructed to sit six feet apart from anyone else in the pews.

It was "interesting" to say the least trying to manage Mass for the first time in almost three months with these little tykes, whom I would normally never have sit in the first row under any circumstances. We took David out four separate times (and missing seeing Joseph's reception as a result). Below, he is showing you his "flower," which is a piece of too-tall grass he plucked and treasured in response to jealousy at seeing his brother Joseph carrying a beautiful cut flower to put in a vase at the foot of the statue of Our Lady. David wanted a flower, too!

After Mass, we ordered delivery from a favorite pizza restaurant. Our priest was even able to stop by in the afternoon and enjoy a slice and conversation with us for about an hour: that was such an honor and a treat!

Joseph opened his many handmade cards from siblings and gifts from loved ones.

Hershey's Kisses with FHC stickers applied

We very much enjoyed the cake made by a professional baker, as my blog readers know darned well I can't make something beautiful like this.

In the evening, children played outdoors while I transitioned my annuals from the flagging pansies to the red geraniums for summer.

I wrote two new movie reviews from the last week: you can always check out my list of movie and television reviews here.

“Greater” (2016, rated PG), review by KTL

This movie was a fantastic pick to watch with our 13-year-old boy. Greater is a true story and a Christian-produced film about American football player Brandon Burlsworth. Brandon was accepted after a walk-on try out to the Arkansas Razorbacks where his incredibly hard work and true Christian love for others earned him a spot as a scholarship student and ultimately an NFL pick before his tragic and early death. It is so difficult to find sports movies that really appeal to adolescent males that are clean and truly inspiring, but this is one of them. Difficult areas of the movie are: (1) Brandon was obese and he is teased for his weight as a youth and then severely during his first year in college football. The teasing is so unkind and cruel that it is hard to watch. However, this film is aimed at teenagers and this teasing is an excellent opportunity for discussion about moral choices. (2) The movie remains clean in reference to dating and sexuality throughout except for one line I thought was uncharacteristic and went too far. When Brandon’s eyesight starts to fail and he gets the ugly black glasses that end up being his trademark, his fellow teammates tease him and one person says he will not go on any dates with the ladies if he wears those glasses (but says it in a way more crude than I will publish here). (3) Alcoholism is a subplot because Brandon is of a Protestant religion that does not drink any alcohol whatsoever. His biological father is an alcoholic and we see scenes of the father becoming drunk. However, this provides wonderful opportunity for discussion with a teenager because of the father’s growing maturity, his apologies, and God’s grace at the father’s beautiful death.

“The Trouble with Angels (1966), review by KTL

This comedy film is “about the adventures of two girls, later best friends, in an all-girls Catholic school run by nuns.” At the beginning of their high-school career, these girls play many hijinks--but nothing cruel--on the nuns. They are decidedly disobedient and there are many opportunities for discussion with youth watching. However, the viewer is slowly growing to love the girls. Meanwhile, the nuns are not a point of mockery: each nun has a distinct personality, quirks and all, but they are women of respect and we get to know them more deeply as the four years of high-school pass by. During the senior year of high-school, the viewer gets to see the main character truly mature and (spoiler alert!) decide to enter the novitiate herself. It is a beautiful and actually believable end to the story. This is a great point to discuss: how much a soul can transform through the years. There are some points of concern. I watched with my daughters 11 and 9. (1) There is a scene in which band uniforms are lent to the girls to wear for a competition. The band uniforms are very immodest and, while the mother superior is shocked, she lets the girls go to the competition anyway, and they win the cash prize which will buy a new heater for the school. My daughters and I felt this was entirely out of character and the outfits were too immodest. (I would not have my husband or sons watch this scene.) (2) There is one passing line in which it is said that there is a rumor that a certain girl is “illegitimate.” The other person replies that no, the girls is not illegitimate, as her father is “very careful about that sort of thing.” 

Friday, May 29, 2020

{SQT} Starting to Reintegrate into Society

Tuesday-Friday, Day #73-76 of Phase 2 of Reopening

We request continued prayers for my husband's mother D. She is recovering, now in a long-term, acute care facility, from COVID-19 and hasn't been home in eight weeks. We value communicating with her via FaceTime as often as the facility will facilitate, which is almost every day.

1. Memorial Day Monday

We went hiking and had a great time! Click here to read about it.

2. Stress

I've let myself get too stressed out this week preparing for Joseph's First Holy Communion, guests visiting our home, and trying to keep up with my daily walking, our school routine, and music practice. How to juggle it all while maintaining peace and trust in God is a lifetime endeavor for me!

A rabbit spotted on my morning walk and seen often in my yard

3. Summer School

We are chugging away at our summer school routine and I think the children are getting their sea legs. That said, I am failing miserably about doing a daily 45 minutes or so of school with my first grader who still needs me sitting with him for everything.

I'm so glad my four-year-old takes matters into his own hands when I'm too busy to guide him! I think getting down this learn-to-draw book and drawing an airplane is pretty wonderful for a boy not yet five!

4. Reading Aloud

After much debate and my starting to read aloud Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather . . .

. . . we actually switched over to Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) by Mark Twain, which I read for the first time about a year ago. We are loving reading it aloud! The book is laugh-aloud funny but also opens up much opportunity for conversations about racism.

Drinking tea and playing Connect Four while listening to me read

5. Rocket Launch (Almost)

The kids were dedicated with school and music to be done by 1:00 on Wednesday so they could watch the three and a half hours of rocket launch goings-on before the 4:32 launch of two NASA astronauts on a Space X rocket. 

Thomas conked out from all the excitement.

David kept waving and saying, "They are going to outer space!" (which impressed me at not yet three).

Unfortunately, with just fifteen minutes to go, the launch got scrubbed due to Tropical Storm Bertha, so we will try to watch the rescheduled launch on Saturday.

6. Graduation Parade

Because all the 2020 graduates lost out on grand ceremonies for their once-in-a-lifetime achievement, our neighborhood (like many) organized a parade for our neighborhood graduates (of both high-school and college). It was truly such a joy for us to participate as spectators!

The parade was led by a police car followed by a bagpiper and two or three school mascots (wearing fuzzy animal costumes in 72-degree heat and 91% humidity) who were throwing candy to the children, and the parade was concluded by a firetruck. The various graduates were each driven by his or her parents, many of the graduates sitting atop open sun roofs. The cars were decorated with balloons and signs. Folks blew noise makers and set off fireworks.

Running for candy

David (almost 3) thinks Fireman Sam and Penny were on the firetruck and he keeps telling us that story.

7. Some Regular Routine

We are getting back to some regular routines: Hockey rec league has resumed, we've been to restaurants twice this week, Mass resumed last weekend and this week we also attended Confession one day and a combination Adoration-daily Mass another. However, summer plans are entirely up in the air, kids' camps and vacation might be scrapped, the children's swim lessons were just cancelled for the entire summer. My husband's international employer just announced that all in-person events are disallowed through February 2021 (nine months from now!) and the CEO and senior execs are all taking pay cuts.

I envision it will require great delicacy on all parts as we re-enter society with our colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Each family--and often the various members within a family--have been processing this coronavirus situation differently and may "be in different places," so to speak, intellectually and emotionally. Just this week, I was quietly noticing that one group of my friends has been alarmed from the start about the overreaching government, is not at all concerned about the vast majority of us catching coronavirus (due to its very low fatality rate), and wants to fully re-open our country in all aspects . . . and without masks! Another group of my friends were conversing and I discovered all of them are very concerned about the ongoing coronavirus situation: they talked of plans not to leave the house for the next year, about their intentions not to enroll their children in any face-to-face gatherings next fall for school, about the need to do everything possible online. Both groups of friends are women of the same religion, same political bent, and almost all homeschooling parents. I find this fascinating! I do not want any of us to damage friendships over these matters and I hope that all of us can proceed with grace.

Bonus Reading for Posterity:

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day Hiking

Memorial Day Monday, Day #72 Phase 2 of Reopening

We request continued prayers for my husband's mother D. She is recovering, now in a long-term, acute care facility, from COVID-19 and hasn't been home in seven weeks. We value communicating with her via FaceTime as often as the facility will facilitate, which is almost every day.

[Please pray that we can find the transfer cord for John's new camera because he has all the best photos from this day, but we cannot access them!]

Every year on Memorial Day, our family has gone to the local cemetery to participate in the patriotic event put on for the day. We picnic there, listen to patriotic music, sometimes watch a presentation, and we pray for the deceased in the military section of the cemetery. This year, due to concerns about coronavirus, all Memorial Day events seem to be cancelled. (A note for posterity to my children: those dying from any cause during this lockdown often have not been permitted to have a public funeral at all. The most fortunate have had just their closest family present, fewer than ten, often just one or two family members.)

So, no cemetery for us this year.

Therefore, I thought, we have nothing to do and we might as well just do our summer school and music practice routine.

It was about 10:30 in the morning during our regular work when I walked through the kitchen and noticed Chris there . . . just not working. It hit me that today is a day off for him and he had nothing to do and nowhere to go. We could have used this for a family day out.

Having gone on only one family outing in two and a half months due to the lockdown, apparently I am totally out of the habit of thinking about going anywhere! I told Chris my regret and we quickly put together a plan to go to the local botanical gardens.

In what was nearly a miracle, I got all the kids ready, fed them lunch, and loaded them in the car within one hour. As I sat in the car, waiting for Chris to hop into the driver's sit, I went back and checked that email about the re-opening of the botanical gardens . . . it was NOT open today and would NOT be open for three more days!

Nothing was going to deter us at that point, so we drove down the driveway and decided on the way that we would try South Mountain State Park, an hour away.

So what if the sky was darkly overcast and it might rain at any point all afternoon? So what if it was Memorial Day weekend and we might show up to an overcrowded park or even be turned away because the park had reached its limit! We were going!

It turned out to be a wonderful day in a park that was not overcrowded. The temperature stayed at about 73 and the only wetness we experienced was from a certain daughter who walked into the river.

John brought this camera and took many photos.

The kids caught a big crayfish and then set him back in the river.

They also spotted a black rat snake, but not catch him!

Bonus Reading for Posterity: