Saturday, April 30, 2011

What we have been doing

Since learning to walk, Mudpuppy has enjoyed looking out the windows,
especially upstairs, where he gets quite a view of the busy streets near our
We haven't been too diligent about updating this blog recently because we've been even busier than usual. Besides the girls' birthdays and preparations for Easter, we have been extra busy preparing for Starling to travel to Rome. (She was invited by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communication to attend a meeting of Catholic bloggers -- you can get the full story at her blog.) She left this morning, and should be arriving around 8 am Rome time -- 3 am our time!

Also, I've been more busy than usual preparing for the garden season, because I am moving all of the beds to the (sunnier) center of the yard, into a configuration that will make watering and caretaking easier. But that means moving all our raised beds, building three more, and creating new trellises. Plus I am making a canopy for the sandbox, now that Mudpuppy is using it.

Plus, I have been in talks with several companies about buying our websites, so that we can move ahead with our adoption plans? I'm talking with the president and marketing director of one company next week; it sounds like they plan to make an offer.

I've also been working on a new writing project for work. And volunteering at the Winona Catholic Worker, where I have been helping to update the WCW website, shepherd six potential new live-in volunteers through the process of discerning whether to join the community, and prepare for the possibility of re-opening the house for families. I also appear to be one of the last people standing on our lifelong faith formation committee at church (even our pastor is leaving!); it feels like I'm trying to hold our faith formation program together with baling wire and string as it slowly falls to pieces. (I'm not the only one working on this, but planning sessions and preparing for next year has been a major commitment.)

Did I mention that we're planning a garage sale for next week? It's part of our efforts to clean out our overflowing house and raise money for the adoption.

And that is why I have been too busy to update Gracewatch lately! Sad faces all around.

Yes, I know I am too busy. It seems to come with this season of life. And now...I hear a child crying from a bad dream. More soon as I get a spare moment!

Triduum and Easter

Triduum really marks a high point of the year for us -- even with four kids in tow. This year seemed especially good; there is a lot going on in our lives, spiritually as well as practically, and the whole liturgy seemed particularly meaningful. Holy Thursday was especially moving for me. I had been whistling the Tantum Ergo around the house (a little too jauntily, Starling kept saying) for several days. During the period of adoration after the service, I felt God's presence very powerfully, which is especially amazing considering I had a toddler in a sling and two impatient young ones at my side.

For as much as they disliked "too much church," the kids did really well at all the services, even the Easter Vigil, which went until 10:30. I like the Easter Vigil because it's so Catholic -- that is, so "smells and bells." God chose to reveal himself in the flesh, so it seems only natural that that revelation would continue in a physical, tangible way. I like how the church is dark and silent at the beginning of the service, just like a closed tomb. But then, there is a great light at the door -- the bonfire, representing the light of the risen Christ. The light enters the church in the form of the Paschal candle, and then spreads from person to person, until it lights the entire church. Each of us becomes a bearer of the light of Christ; all of us, together, become the Resurrected Body of Christ. And then the chanting of the Exultet -- 

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
. . . 
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God! . . . 
Hearing the words of the Exultet makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle -- because, notice, the words are spoken in the present tense. Just as we are truly participate in Christ's offering of himself during the celebration of the Eucharist, so we are also truly present at the tomb on the night of Christ's resurrection. It is all one moment.

And then the seven Scripture readings, tracing the unfolding of God's plan of salvation, interspersed with more joyful song.

And then we have the blessing of the baptismal font, and as we sing the litany of saints -- that beautiful invocation of our wider community, those holy women and men who have gone before us -- we all come forward to bless ourselves with holy water, a reminder of our own baptism.

Usually, we also have several candidates to be received into the Church. That any adult would want to enter the Church at a time when it is so widely and passionately scorned and ridiculed, and at a time when too many of our leaders lack courage and compassion, and sometimes are actually a source of pain (I'm thinking of certain dioceses suing sex abuse victims, for instance) -- that is a miracle in itself. And it is a reminder that although the Church is full of sinners ("I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners"), Jesus is still present in the midst of them -- just as he so often was when he walked the earth ("They asked, 'Why does he eat with sinners?'"). The Church remains the place where we find God made flesh.

On this particular night, we not only had half a dozen adult candidates, but also two children -- I'd guess their age at somewhere between seven and eleven -- who were baptized. Everyone holds their breath as the older child, the girl, is baptized; then her mother is gently stroking her face, and gently drying her hair with a towel, and another sort of water begins to flow (sounds of people sniffing back tears all over the church!). 

The kids held up well through all of this; Mudpuppy slept upright in the sling next to me the entire time, and Jaybird attempted to sleep on the pew. And when it was all over, we celebrated with cake and punch -- and I do mean celebrated. Everyone is so happy! Admittedly, the youngest children (and there are quite a few of them) are happiest about cake and punch at 10:40 p.m.! Bear did lean over to me at one point to say, "Now this is my favorite kind of Mass!"

Here we are, with our friend Laurie, after the vigil service.
Here are the kids on Easter morning. Notice Mudpuppy
peering over the table -- no candy for him! The kids also
each received a CD of good religious music.

Later in the day, we visited the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge,
where we saw many birds, including two wild turkeys.
And the best part is that we get to continue celebrating Easter for fifty days -- ten days longer than Lent, a point of sarisfaction for those of us who don't do well at fasting. :)

Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy birthday, girls!

The girls turned six and nine this past week. Their birthdays are so close together that inevitably we just celebrate them at the same time, which means the same cake -- which explains the "69." No, no one is turning 69, although maybe they can dig out this photo when they do!

And here is a picture of Mouse doing the Bluffview birthday ritual of carrying the earth around the sun for every year of her life; after every year, the birthday kid gets to answer a question from the teacher. This is probably the last time we'll participate in this ritual, since Bluffview is (thankfully) phasing it out.

Mouse's math

All year long, Mouse has been working on finishing her math "rocket" -- basically a long series of timed tests she took, trying to build up her math skills. As an added incentive to aid her concentration and diligence, we offered that she could choose a restaurant to visit for dinner if she completed the entire rocket, which she did. She chose the Ground Round. Hence the smile!

Think spring!

When the sprinkler and the sandbox and the kite are being put to good use, it must be spring!

Mind you, these pictures were taken ten days before our recent two-day blizzard. At least it's never boring around here! Fortunately, in this particular spot we only got about an inch of very wet accumulating snow; a few miles west (up over the ridge), they got five inches. Yesterday I stepped outside in the middle of the afternoon and it sounded like a rainstorm, there was so much snow melting off the trees and roofs.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Things Mudpuppy can do, ambulatory edition

1. This past week, Mudpuppy took his first crack at drinking from a cup. We haven't given him a cup in the past, because of the potential for lots of spills. But this kid just flatly refuses to use a sippy cup on his own -- he is insistent that someone else hold it for him. If you ignore him, he just gets increasingly frustrated and ends up throwing it. So I decided that, whatever the mess, he was going to learn to drink from a cup. Kids his age did it all the time back before sippy cups. And yes, I have been cleaning up lots of spills, as he really enjoys seeing what will happen when he tips it upside down. Hopefully he will get tired of that soon enough.

2. In keeping with a long-standing Windley-Daoust tradition, he also finds great joy in removing dirt from our garden beds. Who knew this would be enough to entertain someone for a half hour???

3. Walking! We've posted about his walking abilities before, but in the past few days, he seems to really have blossomed in this area. Whereas in the past he could take a few steps if forced, now he is getting up on his own and striking out. He seems to have finally mastered it. He definitely enjoys trying it out, and looks around at our faces for confirmation of his accomplishment. I've been swining him up in the air when he completes one of his forays successfully. Here is an extended video:

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Iron Chef and the Iron Violin

Last week, Starling entered in an "Iron Chef" competition at her school, part of a fundraiser to raise money for the students at sister school Bethlehem University. The secret ingredient was pistachios, and she made Chicken Columbo. She didn't win, but we bought tickets that allowed us to sample all the entries and, wow, were they good!

Later in the week, Bear took part in his school's annual orchestra concert. Considering this is essentially a middle school performance, it was extremely impressive. We will upload a video if we have time.

Mass moments

Jaybird and Jackrabbit were both sick today (that's child #3 and Dad), so we did one of our split-shift Sundays.

Starling reports a couple cute moments from Mass. First, when our pastor lifted the cup at the consecration, Mudpuppy pointed and started making the sign for "drink."

Also, Bear got quoted in the homily. During confession yesterday, Father had asked him what he thought it would be like if he could see God the way the blind man in today's Gospel reading suddenly saw Jesus. "Well," he said, "it would be like this room was black and white in comparison." Father quoted this as part of his excellent homily, saying it came from one of our very own children.