Happy Family Friday, folks! Yes, I know, it’s a week late. We’ll be doing a double header, I promise. We’ve been busy.

That’s right. Mommy has been organizing! Watch out or you’ll get organized!

We will get to Family Friday, but I want to do something a little different first.

Early this week I had a dream. I was falling asleep saying the Rosary, as I almost always do, and suddenly, without warning I was standing in the middle of a street in Aleppo. I have never been to Aleppo, I just knew it was Aleppo the way you know things in dreams. A bomb had just gone off on a crowded street. To my right there was a pile of rubble from a collapsed wall, with about a dozen bodies in it. To my left was a tent where some first responders were just starting to set up a triage point.

I saw all this in no time, because my attention was immediately focused on one woman lying among the rubble to my right. She looked about middle-aged, in a black hijab, and she was alive, and not wounded at all, but she lay among the dead, not moving, because she was cradling her dead baby.

She did not cry, or move, or look around, or give any sign that she saw any of the commotion around her. She just held her baby close and stared at her baby’s lifeless face with blank, empty eyes.

Again, this took less than a second to take in. I must have started to wake up, because I had a horrible moment of confusion where I thought the woman was either Kathleen or I, and the baby was either Evie or Ellie. Then I was awake with my heart going about 180 BPM, and Kathleen breathing softly beside me, and my rosary in my hand. The real strange part is that I felt a sudden reassurance that it was a dream, and that the girls were safe and well in their beds in their room. This assurance was so strong and complete that I didn’t feel the need to get up and go check on them, which is completely out of character for me.

There was more to it as I drifted back off to sleep, before I completely passed out, but that doesn’t really matter. I was left with two strong impressions. One was of the Blessed Mother weeping for her children: “And a sword of sorrow shall pierce your soul.” The other was the certainty that I was being asked to pray and fast and offer sacrifices for the children of poverty and war: “Blessed are they who mourn.

I don’t want you to think this is some kind of PTSD thing, or anything silly like that. It isn’t. It was a completely fictitious, though plausible dream, not based on any real experience of mine. Nor would I consider it a spiritual experience, except in the way that every experience is spiritual, since we are spiritual beings.

It may seem like a strange thing to share in a Family Friday, and it is, but there is a point to it, which is really the reason we do Family Friday at all. That is, we hope to show that Family is the great adventure of our time; that it is good, it is beautiful, it is meaningful, and it is worth it.

Planting flowers!

It is also fragile and vulnerable. Our relatively happy, stable and peaceful family life coexists in a world where children are murdered, families are torn apart, lives are ended too soon, souls are lost to hatred, violence, addiction. These things happen in Syria, in Cambodia, in Nigeria, in Tacoma, in your home town. We are at war. We are in a spiritual war against demons of unimaginable power, cunning and malice, and their all too real human allies and minions. We are supported by beings of light, and incomprehensible strength, intelligence and burning charity, and by the saints, known and unknown.

But we are at war. Our happy family exists on a battlefield, and is a target in the war spiritually, if not also physically. It is never far from my mind, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. (There is a difference between eternal vigilance and paranoia. The key difference is a sense of humor.)

But more to the point, I think, is that I want you, the readers, to remember that there are children who deserve a stable happy family no less than Evie and Ellie and your children do. Do not feel guilty because you have some happiness and stability, and they do not. This is not a privilege that we were given and they were not, it is a human right that they have been horrifically denied.

Do something to give it back to them. Pray and Fast. Give to worthy charities. Adopt. Join an NGO. Whoever has two tunics should share with the one who has none. Whoever has peace and security and financial stability should share with those who do not. You don’t need to look in Aleppo. They are not far from your door.

And enjoy the gifts you have been given with gratitude. Do not take them for granted. Hug your children and your spouse, be there for them, love them with every fiber of your being.

And that’s all for this week, or rather for the last two weeks. It has been a very busy, and I hope not too depressing, post. Please do pray and fast. It can move mountains.

And live with a grateful heart.

God Bless you all!

Monday of this week was a lousy workout day.

If you have been training for any length of time you know that some days are just lousy workout days. Some days you just can’t train like you usually do. Monday was one of those days. Part of it was my fault. We ate heavily in the early afternoon and then not again the rest of the day, so I was well into the fasted stated by 5:00 AM on Monday. Plus, I had too much simple carbs and alcohol (two drinks, I know, #lightweightheavyweight) on Sunday and was feeling heavy and sluggish.

Part of it was only slightly in my control. We let the girls listen to Celtic Women, and they had been obsessed with two of the songs “The Caelie” and “You’ll be in my heart.” So all my dreams had a Celtic Woman soundtrack in toddler voices. Needless to say my sleep was poor.

Part of it was completely out of my control. The YMCA was closed for some silly reason on Monday, so none of my regular equipment was available to me.

So the workout was weak and I couldn’t hit my regular moves. The video is long, I don’t expect anyone to watch the whole thing, so I’ll sum up:

  • I couldn’t keep a straight arm on the lever pullups, and could only do one rep instead of my usual three per side.
  • I couldn’t push out of the hole on the HSPU.
  • I couldn’t hit more than one weighted (24kg) pistol per side.

This is why it is important to master the basics of calisthenics and have a solid understanding of the progression of every move you are working on. Some days you will be feeling great and may want to hop up a level or two just for fun. Other days you will be feeling lousy and will need to take it back a level or two. Know your progressions, be able to transition up or down based on your body’s needs on the given day.

The one thing you must not do is nothing.

Moving into the stamina phase, my third round was rocky. My pullups were weak, partly because I was tired and partly because rings are just harder. I didn’t have a box to elevate my feet so I subbed out KB OH presses (32kg) for my regular pike pushups, and concentrated on form.

Drop back if you have to, just put in the work. Even if you have to right back to square one (aussie pullups and floor standing pike pushups) you still get in your reps and sets and rounds.

The secret to progress is really very simple. If you practice anything every day, 4 – 6 days per week, for a year or two, you will start to develop a certain proficiency at it. If you keep it up for 10 years, you will be quite good. If you keep it up for 30 years, you will master it.

Since no blog post would be complete without a reference to the spiritual life, let me point out my prayer time that day felt as sluggish and lousy as my workout. Or rather the other way round, since I did my prayers first, as per my custom.

Some days you will feel alive and alert and in tune with God and the Communion of Saints and all people of good will. The light of Eden will flow in your veins. When that happens, recognize it as a gift and take advantage of it. Give in to the call, say the extra prayers, read the extra chapter, spend the extra hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Do not worry about sustainability, just capitalize on the present gift.

More often, I think, you will find your thoughts wandering, your enjoyment sluggish, your insights shallow and halting, and your love pale and stunted. Some days you may not be able to collect yourself for one minute out of the whole hour.

Don’t worry about it. Just put in the work. Keep the discipline, say the prayers, leave the rest in the hand of God.

Calisthenics, when done properly, is a prayer of the body. It is a choice to glorify the God of the Incarnation by disciplining the body He designed and gave me to its maximum strength, beauty and usefulness. Like all relationships (which is what prayer really is) it has its up as downs, its highs and lows. The only thing that really matters is giving it your best, whatever that may be at any given moment, in every moment. If all you can do is one pushup, let it be a perfect pushup. If all you can say is one “Our Father,” let it be with your whole heart.

Even if we have to go all the way back to “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Let us never give up.

Happy Family Friday, Y’all! This is an especially good Friday because Evie and Ellie woke up to a surprise!

Daddy was home!

That’s right he got home late last night. Kathleen picked him up at SeaTac around 9:00, on a work night, but it could have been worse. The original flight was supposed to get him in at 11:00.

But let’s back up to the beginning of the week. Ryan missed Papa’s birthday party, because he was training. But they had a good time anyway.

Evie took this picture of Papa and Great Grandma.

Kathleen was trying to find some cheap flights that would bring her and the girls out to meet Ryan, but she could not find any that would get her back in time for work on Monday. So Ryan drove down to South Carolina to hang out with Uncle Chris and Aunt Sharon and their family.

14 Mile Hike with Uncle Chris and Joseph. Lovely view of the fog from the top of Table Rock.

Ryan used to visit them once or twice a month when he was in the Special forces Q Course at Fort Bragg. That was a long time ago, of course, and a lot has changed. Some loved ones are no longer here…

And some new loved ones have shown up since those days (mostly of the small and energetic variety).

Yes, they are trying to pop balloons with their butts.

The girls spent most of Saturday at home. They relaxed and slept in, and even let Mommy sleep in a little bit. Ellie woke up first but was nice enough to just hang out in her crib with Baby Music and let Mommy sleep.

Mommy was trying to make pies for Papa’s birthday. Evie helped a whole lot,

And there was enough filling left over for her to make some little key lime pies.

I think the big one turned out beautifully.

They had been thinking about going up to Enumclaw Saturday night, but the girls also require a lot of playing with, so some of the pie didn’t get made until fairly late in the evening.

So they went up on Sunday instead.

And that’s all for this week. Y’all have a great weekend, keep us in your prayers.

God Bless!

Happy Friday, Y’all! Hope you are having a good one. Right now our family is a bit spread out as Daddy is away doing training. :-/

But he should be back soon. Mommy and Evie and Ellie are making do as best they can right now.

Last Friday night (after Family Friday) was pretty busy as we raced to get all the garden and yard tasks done before Daddy left. We mowed the lawn, took out the garbage and the compost, turned the compost, and then got a couple of wheelbarrow loads of black gold to plant some flowers in.

Everybody does work around here!

We spread it at the base of the rock wall in the back yard. We got some Sweet William seeds from Aunt Dude and Aunt Susie, and since they are a weed that grows pretty much anywhere, we are hoping they will thrive in the dry, bare strip along the rocks.

Then on Saturday morning we let Mommy sleep in for an hour (she’s going to need it) while Daddy and the girls went and picked blackberries for breakfast, and made blackberry pancakes.

Then on Saturday after evening Mass we drove up to SeaTac and dropped Daddy off at the airport, which was sad for everyone.

On days like that, it’s nice to have Mommy home all day, and to spend the day in Jammies.

Evie taught Ellie how to mix pancakes, so Ellie could teach piggy.

And they watched movies and snuggled with Mommy and played legos. And Mommy tried a new hair style for Evie and it turned out beautifully.

Meanwhile, Daddy arrived at his destination and found a very lovely surprise in his backpack!

Letters from Mommy and Evie!

Those are always the best!

So a week of training, working, and learning has crawled by as the summer winds to a close. Evie’s new school year is just around the corner, Ryan is still job hunting (not very successfully. It seems no one wants to hire a PA who hasn’t been a PA for at least a couple of years.)

Keep us in your prayers. Have a great weekend, and God Bless!

Saturday mornings are my favorite.

Usually, Ellie helps Daddy make breakfast. This particular Saturday we made breakfast biscuits, which are super easy.

Start by rendering about 8 oz of Bacon cut small

  • Mix 2 cups of bisquick
  • 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
  • Milk until it is slightly runny
  • The rendered bacon
  • About a cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese

Spray a muffin tin well. Pour the mix in, gently place a slice of Havarti on top of eachand back for about 12 minutes at 450.

Quick, easy, delicious. Then we sat around and relaxed and told puns:

Q: What do you get when you boil a funny bone?

A: A laughing stock!

😀

Evie has developed quite a taste for coloring these days, and she is really quite good at it. It’s one of the few things she will sit still for.

This is the story of St. Valentinus. She likes the wedding picture best.

Sunday evening we went to Aunty Celyn’s annual 4US fundraising dinner. This is always a great time, and the food is always amazing! Auntie Celyn’s mom, Auntie Lynn, is a phenomenal Filipino cook.

On Monday Daddy had the day off so we drove up to Enumclaw to Dude’s house to pick 6 quarts of blueberries.

The week since then has been a whirlwind. Daddy has been working at the armory, trying to organize all the medical supplies. Mommy has been working at her office, and the traffic going past the base has been nightmarish every night.

We are going to do our best to enjoy a very short weekend before Daddy has to take off again. You all have a great weekend. God Bless, and pray for us.

Happy Friday, Y’all.

Last weekend was fun. We are starting to get into the hot, late summer period. August is when things start getting really hot and dry around here. Hot, that is, for western Washington, which means that the strawberries are starting to come in again.

Ellie likes strawberries, because she can reach them.

The girls stayed overnight with Deedee and Papa on Saturday night so Mommy and Daddy good go to a game night with some friends.

While we were getting ready to go to Mass the next morning a hot air balloon floated by! The girls thought that was the coolest thing ever. When it was time to go the girls went out to get into the car. Evie jumped in her car seat and buckled up. Ellie climbed into the driver’s seat and started “driving.”

After Mass and brunch we went home and got ready to have Adam and the gang over. Since Grandma was in town visiting with them for the weekend, she tagged along too.

Evie helped Daddy pick blackberries for a a cobbler.
Evie was the invalid so the other kids could play doctor.

Our menu was leg of lamb in coffee and port wine sauce, cooked in the dutch oven, with sweet potatoes and green beans.

Mommy making the sauce.

The more we get into dutch oven cooking, the more we like it. It takes some finesse, but we are slowly getting the hang of it.

And of course a picture of Grandma with her West coast grandkids.

The garden continues to come in, such as it is. The Japanese plums are about picked bare. The girls completely picked all the lower branches, and Mommy picked all the higher ones this week. They have been delicious!

That is what’s left of a plum in her mouth.

We cleaned out the beans too, although they still have some flowers and small beans left to come in.

The wheelbarrow we bought the girls last week has been coming in handy as well.

Only Daddy seems to be the only one doing any work with it.

Ryan has been in uniform all week, getting his army medic on, training on JBLM.

Kathleen got to hang out with her old coworker that she used to work with all those years ago when she was just starting out in ultrasound. They got to catch up on all the changes in the last ten years or so.

Now Ryan has to get back to work so that’s all for now. Have a great weekend, God Bless.

Happy Friday, Y’all! This is a great Family Friday because Mommy has the day off today!

She asked for the day off months ago when we had plans to go camping this weekend. However, most of the people who were going to go camping with us had other things come up, so we ended up cancelling our camping plans.

Just as well because we have a good deal of work to do this weekend. Just like last weekend.

It was great last week. The girls stayed over at Deedee and Papa’s house on Thursday night so Ryan and Kathleen could have a date. Then when Ryan went up to pick them up on Friday he got the chance to do some man work for a change. He turned this…

Into this…

It was also the weekend of Kids Camp at the Swiss park.

So we went and met Mommy there after supper. Our kids are too young for Kids Camp yet, but Kathleen has been going there for 22 years with only one miss, and old habits die hard. (We missed last year because we were at the beach, watching Evie meet the ocean for the first time).

But the girls like playing on the old school play ground (all metal and wood, because Swiss people don’t replace anything until it has fallen apart three times).

It’s a great place to get them all… “tired” out!

They also like seeing the decorations for the play that the kids do on Sunday,

and Evie is fascinated by the Schwingen Pit.

“Daddy! Come wrestle with me!”

Kathleen comes from a long line of Fondue serving ladies.

Get it? A long line? Cause there’s a long line of ladies in the picture?

We have begun harvesting beets this week. They have not been doing so well, but we got enough for one good meal of butter beets and carrots.

It is one of Ryan’s favorite summer dishes. Super easy, you just cut up some fresh raw beets and carrots, and either steam them and then fry it in butter, or just fry it in butter without steaming until it is tender and delicious.

The weather has been fairly hot and dry, which is perfect for homemade popsicles and playing in the pool.

We have transitioned from “time outs” to planking for Evie as a disciplinary measure, since she listens better while planking than while sitting. The better she listens, the faster she gets to recover. This will probably not work for Ellie, however. She thinks planking is a great game, and she is actually really good at it (comes of being shorter and more compact than her sister).

Look at that form!

We have been having a great time outside, but sometimes it’s too hot to play out there for little girls born and bred in the Pacific Northwest. Then legos inside is a great option.

Then on to the main event for the week. Daddy and the girls went up to Deedee and Papa’s house to strip their bean plants of the last of the beans (Deedee already canned all she wants for this year). Ellie loves working in the garden and is actually pretty good at picking, for not being two years old.

Evie does not like working in the garden, but she thought the Velcro effect of the leaves was fun.

We picked a lot of beans.

A LOT!

And Mommy bought another 25 Lbs from the Greek produce store near her work.

Fortunately she got off work a little bit early on Wednesday so she had about 10 Lbs of it snipped by the time the rest of the family got home, and was able to get started canning while Daddy and Evie snipped more beans.

Evie does not like being made to work, as we have said, but she agreed that if she lives in this house and eats food with everyone else, it is only fair that she do her share of the beans.

And boy is she proud of herself when she finishes her pan of beans!

And that’s what we are still up to today, canning beans. Kathleen had one batch going before the girls got up, then Ellie helped wash more beans…

Ellie always wants to help.

While Evie and Daddy made muffins for breakfast.

Looks like we will have 31 quarts when they are all canned.

That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, and pray for us.

God Bless!

Happy Friday, Y’all. Summer is finally in full swing around here after all the rain and cold. It’s still fairly cool, and even when it gets into the 80’s and everyone complains about the heat, Ryan still laughs at them.

I survived Fort Bragg in the summer, for years! Washington holds no terrors for me.

Saturdays are the day that Mommy and Daddy are both off, but that doesn’t mean it’s all partying and frolicking and whimsical nonesuch. It is a serious work day, with all manner of noble tasks to be undertaken.

Serious!

For instance, we harvested some of our compost.

And placed it around our kiwis to slow down the desiccation of the soil around it.

Mommy was also working very hard to make a pink champagne cake for the Moergeli picnic which was on Sunday. It took all day, and she only finished it right before bedtime prayers, but isn’t it pretty?!

But she still had time to have a toenail party (that’s what it’s called, right) with the girls.

Our Japanese plum is starting to come into season!

It is loaded with fruit, compared to last year when we only got about three tiny little plums off it. It’s hard to tell when they are ripe, because they don’t turn purple, they just go from yellow to a slightly more translucent shade of yellow. And we have been having trouble keeping the small ones away, since they ate three of the unripe plums off the lower branches a few nights ago. Silly childs! Yeah, they’ll pucker up your mouth, but it’s probably good for the intestinal health so whatever.

Also, a note about that picture, Kathleen is carrying an empty champagne bottle not because that’s how we party after the girls go to sleep, but because neither of us like champagne, so we dumped what was left from the cake in the compost. Judging by the whooping and hollering and carrying on, the worms seem to have enjoyed it.

Sunday was the Moergeli picnic. We drove up to Enumclaw to get our Moergel on for a few hours. Kathleen has been discovering handwritten recipes tucked in the pages of her 1908 cookbook, and brought it up in the hopes that some of the older folks might be able to identify the handwriting and maybe decipher the ingredients, since some of the abbreviations are unfamiliar.

The consensus was that most of it belonged to Great-Grandma Gerald, and at least one of the abbreviations probably stands for “sweet” milk, by which the Aunts believe she meant condensed milk.

Dude knows how to throw a party for the Ellie! Just bring fresh picked berries. Which reminds me. Dude’s blueberries are coming on, which means we’ll need to find a day to get up and pick them in the next couple weeks.

Kathleen found Evie some new workbooks with a dry erase pen so that she can use them over and over again. She has a math workbook, a penmanship (cursive) workbook, and a phonics workbook.

She loves the Math one, kind of enjoys the cursive one, and has no interest in the phonics at all.

In that respect she is her mother’s daughter.

Let’s see, what else…

Oh, Evie and Ellie are both convinced that the food on Mommy’s plate is definitely more delicious than the food on their own plates, even when it is patently clear that it is the same kind of food.

Little Vultures.

Ellie likes to try on Daddy’s sandals:

And Ryan finally got the fence fixed, with a gate and everything!

If you are wondering why the diagonal bracing is not a perfect “X” it’s because the 2×4 was two inches too short, and Ryan was not willing to run to the store and buy another one. It works and doesn’t looke terrible. The only problem is that the new post that Ryan set is plumb, or pretty darn close thereto, but the old post that the hinges are set on is NOT! Not even close. You can see how this makes the whole fence sag into the neighbor’s yard, and makes the bottom of the gate not flush with the pole.

It hurts Ryan’s soul, but not enough to dig out the old post, chip away the cement and reset it. It’s going to stay as it is.

And that’s all for this week, folks. We hope you have a great weekend, don’t forget to pray everyday for us and for your own families.

God Bless!

Raphael’s “Dispute on the Blessed Sacrament,” Vatican Museum.

The Lord is King; the peoples tremble.
He is throned upon the cherubim, the earth quakes.
And yet, O Lord, before me you resemble
My own smallness, littleness, helplessness. For our sake
You dwell among the nothing; yet we dissemble
And see you not. A cup of tiny cakes
Contains the Uncontainable! We assemble
Sit, stand, yawn, mumble; and when he breaks
Your mystical body, I check my watch…
And grumble.

Look closely at these two cast iron skillets.

The one on the right is a Texas skillet Ryan has bought probably about six or seven years ago, which he has used and abused until last summer. After a couple failed attempts to strip it and cure it, we ended up putting it on the shelf until we would have time to strip it again. This summer, Kathleen found a recipe for curing a cast-iron skillet in her 1908 cookbook, By boiling potato skins in it for an afternoon, then heating it over the stove top and coating it with a very very light coat of oil. It has since worked quite well, and between uses we scour it out with coarse salt, heat it over the stove and coat it with a light coat of oil.

A pan on the left belonged to to Kathleen’s great grandma Agatha who immigrated to the area from Switzerland in 1910. We don’t know when she bought this particular cast-iron pan, but we do know that she must have used it for a good portion of her life. Compared to the new cast-iron the difference is quite remarkable.

The old cast-iron pan is thinner than the new one, but it’s unevenly thinner as if it once was thicker and has been worn down in areas. The very bottom of the pan is slightly warped from being heated and cooled repeatedly for a few decades.

The inner surface is where the magic really is, it is as smooth as glass From decades of being scoured out with ash or sand or salt or some other grit and then re-weld reheated and used over and over again. Eggs and even cheese slide off this thing like butter.

It reminds me of a place I saw in Louisiana about seven years ago when I went down to give a talk at a Catholic school there. The school was built on an old manor house, and the drive up to the old building was flanked on either side by giant oak trees that have been planted there prior to the turn of the 20th century. About 15 years later they were transplanted further out to make a wider lane to accommodate the new motor cars that were just coming into Vogue at the time. Now close to a century after they were first planted, Hey for me truly magnificent tunnel of green over this old gravel drive up to a giant brick building that now houses a content in Catholic school.

In both cases, the cast-iron and the oak trees on the drive, the foundation was laid by somebody who would never see the final result. We in our generation are benefiting from their diligence and foresight a century or more ago. My own cast iron has a long way to go before it reaches anything like that level of smoothness and perfect finish, but if we keep at it and work very hard, maybe our great grandchildren will get the chance to enjoy this Texas skillet the way we enjoy a great grandma Agatha’s frypan.