Friday, February 27, 2009


As most everyone knows, Lent began this week on Wednesday. Some of you may have read my blog in the past on Lent and what it means to me, but I think it's worth repeating.

Easter is the holiest day of the year for Catholics. It is the day that we celebrate Christ's resurrection from the tomb, His victory over death, and consequently our own victory over death. St. Paul tells us that we were buried with Christ in our baptism (Col. 2:12) and that if we have died with Him, we shall also be raised with Him (Rom. 6:3-11). But prior to Easter, we Catholics (and many of our other Christian brothers and sisters) have a period of preparation that we call "Lent", in which we follow Christ on His journey to the cross. I grew up in a faith tradition which does not observe Lent, and since becoming Catholic, I've discovered that Easter means so much more to me personally after taking the Lenten faith journey.

The word "Lent" is probably derived from the Old English word "lencten", which means "lengthen". The season of Lent falls during the transition of winter to spring in the northern hemisphere, during which time the days begin to lengthen.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days (excluding Sundays). As you may recall from both the Old and New Testaments, the number 40 signifies testing. We use these 40 days to discipline ourselves, to sacrifice, and to reflect, so that we may walk more closely with our Lord. On Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes on our foreheads, in the shape of a cross, with the words "Remember, O man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." The receiving of ashes on the forehead is reminiscent of the Old Testament, where men put on sackcloth and sat in ashes as a sign of sorrow and repentance from their sins. Our ashes come from the burning of the palms from the previous year, and they are blessed, sprinkled with holy water, and fumigated with incense. Our liturgical color changes to purple, a color of solemnity and penance.

During Lent, we abstain from meat on Fridays as a small sacrifice. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we also fast. The fast, as specified by the Church, consists of two light meals and one regular meal, no snacks in between. For some, that is hard; for others, not so much. The Church offers these guidelines as a minimum, but we are called to observe the spirit of the law rather than just the letter. For instance, fish is not considered "meat" during our days of abstinence. I don't care so much for fish, so I will sometimes eat fish on Fridays. However, if I loved fried catfish, I would avoid those catfish dinners with all the trimmings. If I were vegetarian, I would choose something else to abstain from on Fridays.
Of course, children, the elderly, and those with medical conditions are not expected to fast. When I am pregnant or breastfeeding, I will limit myself to just what I need and fast from other pleasures that day, such as sweets, the internet, etc.
It is also customary for Catholics to give up some sort of pleasure or add extra prayers or acts of charity for the duration of Lent. Although, as I mentioned earlier, Sundays are excluded from Lent. That is because Sundays are always a day of celebration of our Lord's resurrection.
On Fridays during Lent, we meet for Stations of the Cross. If we can't make it to chuch, we try to do them at home. Here is a good Stations of the Cross especially for children.

The Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This celebration begins outside with the blessing of palm leaves by the priest, and the singing of "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Then the congregation proceeds into the Church. For the gospel reading, the Passion of Christ is read. The blessed palm leaves are brought home by the faithful and placed in their homes until the following Lent.
At the end of Lent, we celebrate the Great Three Days, or the Paschal Triduum. The first day of the Triduum, the Christian Passover, begins at sunset on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord's Supper. This feast commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, and includes the washing of feet. After the Mass, the altar is stripped in preparation of Good Friday.
Good Friday is the only day of the year when Mass is not celebrated. This is a very somber service. The altar is bare, the holy water is absent from the fonts, and there are no processional or recessional hymns. The faithful make their way to the front where they venerate the crucifix, usually with a kiss.

I am often asked why we give up meat on Fridays, why we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and why we give up some personal pleasure for the duration of Lent. What is the point? What does it do? Is it just some arbitrary, legalistic law? I don't believe so. I have found that when I give up an unnecessary pleasure, I become more disciplined. Learning to discipline myself leads me to greater obedience to Christ. Obedience to Christ leads me into a deeper relationship with Him. Making the committment to fast and abstain during Lent is something that I never regret. The spiritual benefits are tremendous!
And, as I explain to my children when they grumble about no meat, my Lord took a flogging for me. He took thorns in His head, nails in His wrist, a sword in His side. He went to hell and back. My sacrifices seem so small in comparison.

Lent FAQs

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our Homeschool Group

One of the things that everyone wants to know about when they hear that we are homeschooling is socialization. How do we get the kids around other kids? Do they have friends? How do we keep them from being bored at home?
The answer to these questions is yes, our children socialize with other children! We socialize through martial arts, basketball, library story hour, church, and our local homeschool group.

Ever since we've first started homeschooling, we've been part of a fairly large Catholic homeschooling group. It is a great group, and we've done a lot of fun things with them...but it's a 45 minute drive. We are not always able to participate in the activities because of the distance. I've always wished that there were something closer to where we live.

This year, there are three other homeschooling families just in our small church! And from the Department of Education website, we can see that there were about 160 kids in our county registered to homeschool last year. We know that they are out there, but we didn't have an organized group. So a few of us started meeting regularly back in November and have been putting ads in the paper and spreading the news by word-of-mouth. Things are finally starting to take off. Our last playgroup had nine families show up! Not bad for our small town, and I hear that there are many more interested that we haven't met yet. Some of the moms have created an email group and a calendar of activities. So far, we've had park playdates, visited the museum, participated in the Christmas parade, have made crafts, and had a Valentine's Day party. We have planned in the next couple months a science fair, an art exhibit, tie-dyeing t-shirts, and a basic self-defense/stranger danger class for children (which I will teach). We are also putting together a 'yearbook', with pictures of our activities and playdates.

Mojo now has two best friends that she sees several times a week. Caveman has found a little boy his age who loves to wrestle just as much as he does. And I am making some really good friends as well.

We had a float in the Christmas parade:
Christmas parade Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

And here are some pictures from our play dates...
homeschool playgroup girlfriends Photobucket Photobucket playing at the park 1-12-09 Photobucket Photobucket

Friday, February 20, 2009

Look what Juju can do!

Wow, this has been a busy week for Juju! He is now a half a year old, has gotten a brand-new tooth, and can sit up by himself for several seconds!

Here are some more pictures we've taken of him recently (click the thumbnails to see the full-sized pictures)...
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine's Day and Why I Married Bear

Today is St. Valentine's Day! St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who was martyred on February 14, around the year 270 A.D. Since one account of St. Valentine portrays him as performing Christian marriage at a time when marriage was illegal, he has become the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages.
Since St. Valentine is the patron saint of happy marriages, Bear and I always celebrate St. Valentine's Day in a small way. Usually we will give each other a sappy card, spend some time together, and maybe try to attend Mass if possible. Bear is working this weekend, so I will bake heart-shaped cookies and red cupcakes with the kids, and hopefully we can find some time together next weekend!
And this year, Bear did something differently. The doorbell rang yesterday, and I stepped out onto the front porch to find a box containing this:
Isn't that sweet? Even though I detest the commercialization of our holidays, I couldn't help but be touched by the thought. I had to tell the kids "No, that's MOMMY'S teddy bear!" I did share the chocolates with them, since I am trying to shed a few pounds.

In honor of St. Valentine's Day, and since my last blog post was about how Bear and I met, here is the story of how we decided to get married...

When Bear and I met, I told him that I was not wanting to be in a relationship. I just wanted to hang out and have fun. He accepted this, but he warned me "If you let me, I'll monopolize your time." At least he was honest about it. After we had been hanging out for awhile, I strongly suspected that he was looking for a wife. I knew that I should probably move on.
I was a bit gun-shy. As I mentioned in my other post, I had been married before, for five years. I married young, a week before my 18th birthday, but when I got married, I thought I knew just what I was doing. I thought I knew the man I was marrying. Apparently I didn't. There was no way I was going to make that mistake again.
Bear and I were also very different. He was a slob, and his apartment was a mess. I was organized and neat. He was quiet. I was outgoing. I said what was on my mind. He either kept things to himself or hinted around without coming out and saying what was on his mind.
The biggest difference in my mind was the fact that we attended different churches. He was Catholic. I was Baptist. I didn't see how we could reconcile the two. This is probably the area that we butted heads on the most.
The turning point for me came when I left the hospital where we worked together and took a job closer to home. At the time, we lived 55 miles apart, but we saw each other frequently at work and visited with each other when we weren't at work. He lived just down the street from the hospital, so it was easy for me to stop by his apartment either before or after work. I would now be working near my home, 5 days a week, with weekends off. He worked every other weekend and had reserve duty one weekend a month. I figured that we would gradually drift apart and that our relationship would run it's course.
He decided to get out of the Navy reserves. I was taken aback and told him, "You really shouldn't do that just because of me! We probably won't be together forever, you know." He assured me that he was planning to get out anyway.
In my new job, as assistant director of nursing at the local nursing home, I was responsible for staffing. Finding nurse's aides to cover the shifts was always a challenge, and when I couldn't find anyone to cover, I was expected to come in and do it myself. One evening, after working a 12 hour shift that day, Bear called me and said that he wanted to come see me. Shortly after I hung up the phone with him, the nursing home called to tell me that they only had 3 nurse's aides for the night shift. I spent about an hour calling around, then resigned myself to the fact that I would have to go work the 11pm to 7am shift. When Bear knocked on my door (neither of us had cell phones back then), I answered in my scrubs saying "I'm sorry you drove all this way, but I'm gonna have to go in to work in an hour. You can hang out here tonight if you'd like." He decided that he would just come with me and help out. All night long, he helped answer call lights, filled water pitchers, and helped me turn and clean the residents. When he got so tired he couldn't stay awake, he laid down on the floor of my office and closed his eyes for awhile. That was the moment...when I saw him walking down the hall with the water pitcher cart, visiting with the residents who were awake...that's when my heart melted and I knew that I had to hang on to him.
We dated for another year after that before I seriously began to entertain the notion of marriage, though. We were attending church together as often as our schedules would allow, sometimes he would come with me to my church, sometimes I would go with him to Mass. We both wanted to please God in our lives. There came a point where we both knew that we would either have make it permanent or part ways, and neither of us really wanted to part ways. We decided we'd both pray about it and see where the Lord led us. We kept coming back to the fact that as we grew closer to God, we also grew closer to each other. And that our relationship caused us both to want to draw closer to God.
The funny thing was that Bear never actually proposed to me; he just kept hinting every now and then to gauge my reaction. When he got me to the point that I wasn't so resistant to the idea, he suggested that we go talk to his priest. Eventually, I said "Well, OK."
Here we are going on ten years later, and we both think it was a pretty good idea to let God decide for us.

Now, if you read all that, you deserve a treat! The kids helped me bake these, and they decorated them all by themselves.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How I Met My Hubby

It was the spring of 1997. I was a 23-year-old newly graduated RN, working nights on the cardiac telemetry floor. At the ripe old age of 23, I had been divorced for a year and had a 3-year-old daughter. I won't get into that story here; I will just say that I was bitter and cynical. I figured that I could take care of myself and my daughter just fine, thank you, and I didn't need a man. I was casually dating, though. Just for fun.
A cute respiratory therapist at work caught my eye. He was quiet (which to me was ~mysterious~), and I asked about him. The older nurse who was mentoring me told me "That's Bear. He's a nice young man." Then she added "He's a Christian."
I said hello to him once in the hallway, but he didn't say hello back. "Snob", I thought. I blew it off and went on about my business.
Some time later (maybe a month? I dunno), I was making my evening rounds and went into a patient's room to do an assessment. Bear was in there giving the patient a breathing treatment. I introduced myself to the patient, informed him that I would be back after his treatment was finished, and wrote my name on the whiteboard. As I was writing, I heard Bear's voice..."That's my favorite one." I wasn't sure who he was talking to or what he was talking about. "Excuse me?" I said. "That jacket", he said, pointing to my lab jacket, which was a print with different colored dogs. I wasn't sure what to say, so I think I said something like "Oh, this? Thank you." And left the room.
After that, Bear hung around the nurses' desk more frequently. A lot of times, he just sat quietly listening to the conversation, but sometimes, he would actually join in. Sometimes, he would even make small talk with me. I talked about trying to move into the house I had just bought, and he offered to let me borrow his truck. "Wow" I thought, "this guy barely knows me, but he would let me borrow his truck?" If I hadn't already had someone letting me borrow a truck and helping me move, I would have taken him up on that offer.
Later, I talked about painting and wallpapering every room. It was a 3 bedroom 2 bath house, with a separate dining room, so it wasn't a small task. I was hoping he'd offer to come help out with that. (He did later. But I'm jumping ahead.)
Some of the nurses noticed him hanging around a lot and began talking to him about me when I wasn't around. "Why don't you ask her out?" they asked. The story I got was that he thought I was interested in this other nurse, a guy who was just a "buddy" and nothing else. I made sure to point out in conversations when he was around that the other nurse and I were just friends and that I wasn't interested in him in that way. He told someone else that he thought I was "too strong-willed and independent." Well, he was right about that one, but that wasn't going to change.
I eventually got tired of waiting for him to ask me out, so one night, after he had left the desk, I called his number (we all carried little phones around in our pockets) and asked him if he wanted to come see my house and have some drinks with me. He did. That morning when I got home from work, there was a message from him on my answering machine. That night, he came over. We talked all night long, played cards, listened to music, and finally decided to go to sleep around 7am. I let him sleep in my room, and I slept in Sunshine's room (she was at her dad's house that night.)
The girls at work were dying for details, and they did not believe a word of it when I told them that we had been alone at my house all night long, drinking alcoholic beverages together, and he did not try to kiss me. Well, I swear, that's really what happened. Except he did kiss my hand before he left the next day. He didn't know it, but that scored him some big time points! ;-)
When I got to work the next night, there was a note in my mailbox from him. I sent him a jar of bubbles with a note attached. Those notes are in our scrapbook.
And about a month later we finally did kiss. But that's another story.