Thursday, September 29, 2011


Peter Kreeft: Twelve things to know about angels

As today is the Feast of of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels, here is a post from a couple of years ago that I'm re-posting for those who missed it the first time. It is an excerpt from Angels (and Demons): What Do We Really About Them? (Ignatius Press; 2004, sixth printing) by Peter Kreeft:
The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them

1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity.

2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you.

3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or “cool”. They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.

4. They are the real “extra-terrestrials”, the real “Super-men”, the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures.

5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein.

6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them.

7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real.

8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking.

9. You really do have your very own “guardian angel”. Everybody does.

10. Angels often come disguised. “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares”—that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual.

11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity.

12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster—for bodies, for souls, and for nations.

Why do people think it's stupid to believe in angels?

One reason is a mistake about themselves: the failure to distinguish between (1) sense perception or imagination (which is a kind of inner sensing) and (2) reason, or intelligence, or understanding. We don't see pure spirits, and we can't imagine them. That doesn't mean we can't know or understand them. We can see and imagine the difference between a five-sided figure (a pentagon) and a six-sided figure (a hexagon), and we can also intellectually understand that difference. We cannot, however, sense or imagine the difference between a 105-sided figure and a 106-sided figure. Both look to us simply like circles. But we can understand the difference and even measure it exactly. So we can understand some things we can't see. We can't see qualities like good and evil either. What color or shape or size is evil? Yet we can understand them. We can imagine our brains, but not our minds, our personalities. But we can know them.

Many who deny angels deny or are uaware of the spiritual half of themselves. Angels are a touchstone of "know thyself". So are animals.

Aren't angels irrelevant today? This is the age of man, isn't it?

Yes, this is the age of man, of self-consciousness, of psychology. And therefore it is crucial to "know thyself" accurately today. The major heresies of our day are not about God but about man.

The two most destructive of these heresies—and the two most popular—are angelism, confusing man with an angel by denying his likeness to animals, and animalism, confusing man with an animal by denying his likeness to angels.

Man is the only being that is both angel and animal, both spirit and body. He is the lowest spirit and the highest body, the stupidest angel and the smartest animal, the low point of the hierarchy of minds and the high point of the hierarchy of bodies.

More accurately stated, man is not both angel and animal because he is neither angel nor animal; he is between angels and animals, a unique rung on the cosmic ladder.

But whichever way you say it, man must know angels to know himself, just as he must know animals to know himself, for he must know what he is, and he must know what he is not.
A free 80-minute lecture,"Aquinas and the Angels," by Peter Kreeft can be accessed here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marley She Ain't...

....Thanks be to God!

I am rereading "Marley and Me".
The first time I read it, right after it came out, I thought it was cute, and very funny, but I wasn't reading it from the perspective of a fellow dog owner. It was kind of a "better him than me" sort of funny.
Since then we have become the loving owners of dear Maggie. I am reading the book now with an appreciation not unlike the parent of a compliant child. I'm not smug (really!), because her behavior is not due to anything I have done right. She just is....golden.
Maggie is one of those dogs who only makes mistakes occasionally and who has the best of intentions in everything she does, so she is impossible to get frustrated with because she's not a bad girl, she's just misunderstood.

OK, the hair, the hair, the hair....
That is a bit of an issue, but it's kind of like when your baby spits up, it's just part of the package and it's not a big deal.

Marley's story is extremely entertaining, in large part because it's not ours.
I laugh 'til I cry, and it's kind of that uncontrollable laughter that wells up after you realize that you didn't have that accident or just missed falling down the stairs.
We were blest with a lady. We could have gotten a Marley, although I don't think a Marley could have come from Tazzy.
However, we were going to try to find a dog, and if Maggie hadn't come along, there is no telling who we would have ended up with....

Maggie's story wouldn't sell many books.
She doesn't destroy the house, she doesn't create havoc everywhere she goes.
Her day is extremely routine.
Get up, go out to do the business, come in and relax, or harass the cat, while mom is on the treadmill.
Say an exuberant "Good-bye" to dad as he goes off to work, making sure that he takes a little golden hair along on his clothes so that he doesn't forget her.
Then it's time to go upstairs, and eat breakfast and then lay at the bottom of the stairs waiting for mom to exit the shower.
After that it's time for the boys to get up, and someone will come to lay their head on her while they wait for breakfast.
School starts and then it's just up and down the stairs all day to be wherever the family is. There is a walk, the same route and the same neighborhood friends, almost everyday. If we go anywhere, it's a nap by the door 'til we get home.

Maggie is compliant and predictable, and she is just perfect for us.

Next week is St Francis' feast day, and the blessing of the animals. Maggie will be there, and we pray for a good many more years with her.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Open Mike at Good Shepherd!

Sometimes your kids just amaze you.
We went to open mike night up at the school. It was a youth group event and a lot of the kids prepared some wonderful entertainment.
John had a song that he and his friend Mark did as a duet. The duet idea was a bit shaky, but both of the guys sang well, when they sang.

Paul did a song called "Galaxies". It was with a CD, so there are parts where he stands for a long time waiting for the next verse to start, but he did a great job!

I am so proud of these guys!

There were lots of great performances.
Erin Tellup and Danielle Hoppel- Mime

Blaine and Mathias- "Thriller"

The "Improv Players"

Mathias and Blaine-Air guitar dual

And a great big finish!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Great Chess Night!

September's Chess night appears to have been quite successful!
We had around 18 boys here! They had pizza, a little soda, LOTS of water, and I made chocolate chip cookies.
After we cleared dinner, we set up the rest of the boards and the boys started their matches.

I have no idea who played who, or who won, but that doesn't matter, because they just love to play!
The younger boys were playing the older ones, no one had to worry about how well they play, because everybody just played everybody.
We had nine boards including several that were brought by some of the boys.

We'll be doing this every month, but if it gets any bigger, we are going to have to find another place to play, we'll be out of room!
I want to see if the guys would like to have a tournament at the end of the school year.
I don't want anyone to feel any pressure, but I think some of them would like it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Homeschoolers Can't Do It....

Just in case you are reading this and you are not a homeschooling mom, kid, grandma, aunt, dad, or member of the support staff of a homeschooling family, here is a word from one who is.

It seems that there are quite a few people out there that are under the impression that homeschoolers really aren't doing anything all day, and so they are available for doctors appointments, dentist appointments, babysitting, volunteer work, and lots of other non-academic activities that take place during regular school hours.
I'm sorry, but in this particular homeschool, we are actually spending long days working very hard to get as much accomplished as possible. It's a five-day-a-week job and most days start at 9:00am, with prayers, and end around 4:00pm. John is usually still working at 5:00, or later.
If we take an hour out to run to an appointment, or do something outside our four walls, we have a very hard time getting back on track. We limit phone calls, visitors, and there is no TV, or computer, for the boys until after they finish. It's almost like...REAL school, except that we usually have a dog and a cat in class.

I know there are many homeschoolers who are able to get everyone up, fix a full course breakfast, go to Mass, get home and clean the house, get all the coursework done, and go out for PE, do a science experiment, and an art project, all before lunch, but we are not that family.

I love homeschooling, but I have found that for our family to do it well, we actually have to be home, schooling.

I am in awe of those who are able to be everywhere, incorporating everything they do into an amazing lesson. I am just not that Mom. I need the books, and the lesson plans, and the answer keys, and the clock. God bless you all wherever you are, you are amazing.

Me, I'm just a homeschooling mom, and, these days, you'll find me at home.
Four days of fun and frolic has made for a rather subdued group of students around this household.
Even the teacher is a little underwhelmed at the prospect of getting back to work.
It's a good thing we went up to the farm yesterday, because the weather was beautiful, and today is rainy and cold. I guess that is adding to the lack of enthusiasm.
I like the fact that we are staying in. Everyone is busy with something productive, except that I have to keep pulling Paul away from his book, but that is nothing new. The dreary weather makes the house feel cozy, even though it's not really cold out.
John is working on art, and Brendan is doing his math. It's always good to get math out of the way for the day.
Paul did his health lesson, which was interesting. He had to dry, yes dry, his tongue, and then put sugar on the tip, to see if he could taste it. Well, he said he could barely taste it until he let his tongue get wet again. 
I have a couple of things to do tonight, but things really have slowed down, and I feel like I can really concentrate on school without a lot of other distractions.
I am taking things a day at a time. The boys are doing so well, I don't want to tip the balance by adding anything else to the mix.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Field Trips!

We took a couple of days to do some traveling around the area, taking advantage of offerings to homeschoolers. On Friday we went down to Baltimore to take part in some classes that the Science Center was offering.

 The boys just love the science center, so before the classes began, they spent some time doing "Science" stuff. Then we attended our first class. It was about the Moon. It was probably a bit on the young side for John, but the other two boys, and Henry, seemed to enjoy it. After we had lunch, the guys ran all over the place exploring the exhibits.

There is always an interest in the dinosaurs, and Brendan made a friend!

We went to a presentation in the Planetarium, and it was very interesting. I think it's so great that the boys can have time with their friends, and learn something at the same time.

I had fun too! Today we went to Cherry Crest Farm, for a great day of farm adventure! This place is amazing! There are so many things to do! The drive up was beautiful! The clouds were gorgeous and the temperature was perfect.

There was a great exhibit on bees, which were all over the place.
An overhead "goatwalk", where you could
feed the goats by sending a treat up a conveyor.

Paul coming out of the tube slide.
 Brendan having a GREAT time!

 Paul and a new friend on the straw bale maze.

 A great time was had by all....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

St Patrick's Pilot Town

Today was the annual Mass at St Patrick's Chapel up in Pilot Town.

Here is a bit of the history:
In 1819 the Rev. Roger Smith purchased a half acre from Daniel Glacken for a church and a burial ground.  The church was built and the first religious service was held in 1819.  The congregation consisted mostly of Irish immigrants working in the lumbering operation bordering the Susquehanna River and the canals on both sides of the river.  They built a new church.  They called it St. Patrick’s Chapel.

  St. Patrick’s Chapel is a testimonial to the toil and faith of the early nineteenth century residents of Cecil County.  Old Conowingo was a busy thoroughfare; a major crossing of the Susquehanna River.  Here Lafayette and Compte de Rochambeau, with their troops, crossed the Susquehanna in 1781 on their way to Yorktown.  Here, lumber operations were established and canals created to foster the growing economic life of the county and here people built their church telling us that their faith was as important as their commerce.  For these reasons alone, the chapel is an important landmark deserving preservation.

    With the advent of the railroad, canal commerce diminished and the population shifted away from Pilottown.  The chapel was abandoned several times during its’ 188 year history.  In spite of sporadic “restoration” attempts, the chapel frequently experienced neglect.  A passerby in the 1920s remarked that the grounds were overgrown with brush, the front door swinging on its hinges, and the interior invaded by animals.  Most old wood framed buildings would not have withstood such an assault.  However, this building refused to collapse; refused to die.  It still stands, a witness to our past, and a potential refuge to future generations.  This is a humble, courageous building, but it needs our help!  It stands there saying “I’m part of your history, I won’t let you forget me.”

The chapel has since been restored, and is under the loving care of some wonderful people from Good Shepherd parish now.

Every year there is a Mass, and now there are more baptisms and other family celebrations for the people in the area whose families are part of the history. 

I am so glad we were able to be part of today's celebration. 
Brendan and Paul were able to Altar serve,  

Fr Jay, Deacon Luke, and Fr John Abrams officiated. 

There were actually a lot of people there, given the flooding and other problems in the area. 
Interestingly the gospel today was:

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 6:43-49.
Jesus said to his disciples : "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command?
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."

This church is a testament to all those people long ago who built their house of Faith on solid rock.

After Mass the weather was beautiful, and we were able to have a lovely outdoor reception.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And Now....School Year 2011/2012!

So yesterday we started our 2011/2012 school year.
We are up against a pretty challenging workload, but I know these guys can pull it off.

John has started High School, so he is working to build his transcript. That means that he has to work hard for those credits!
He is doing Saxon Algebra 2, which is a handful, but he has a "Teacher" DVD to use as he tackles new concepts. He did well in Algebra 1, so I am confident that he will get through this math text with no problem.
English is Warriner's Third Course, which the girls did when they were in ninth grade! Right now it is just going over parts of speech and grammar, but as he goes on he will be doing lots of different types of Composition. This, I like!
Literature is going to follow history, so right now he is reading a book called "The Hittite Warrior", then he will be starting a series on the Roman Empire. Each book will be followed by a report. 
Science is going to be High School level Earth Science, and I bought a syllabus from Mother of Divine Grace for this one. It starts with Geology, which is something he enjoys.
History is "Light to the Nations" from the Catholic Textbook Project. This is a 9th grade world history course. I bought the workbook CD to go with it, and I really like it! I can print out the worksheets I want and I don't have to have the whole book. I wish more workbooks came this way.
There will be a test at the end of every chapter, and these will be what he will be graded on. 
For Religion we are starting a series of four books. This year we are doing "Catholicism and Reason". John is finished with Religious Ed, except for Confirmation Preparation, so we are moving into this series, because we can!
Art, health, PE, Music, and a couple of other subjects, will fill out the electives.
It is going to be a lot, but I know John can pull it off!

Brendan is in 7th grade, and his load is going to keep him busy, which is a good thing for an 11 year old boy!
He is doing Saxon 8/7 for his Math. I really like the Saxon books, because they reinforce the concepts each day, and we can pick and choose how much of each lesson to do. There are plenty of practice pages, for extra help with concepts that are eluding them, but usually we just read the lesson, do the lesson practice and most of the lesson itself.
Brendan has the same language arts program that we used last year. He is doing Seton English 7 and Seton Spelling 7, which has lots of exercises for vocabulary, phonics, alphabetization and spelling proficiency. I have used these books every year for a long time, and the boys are mastering these skills very well.
Writing is going to get more structured for Brendan this year. We are using Writing Strands Level 3, and I am hoping that he can learn to enjoy writing as much as his brothers do.
I am going back the old "Faith and Freedom" readers for Brendan and Paul this year. I used various books last year and did more of a historical fiction theme, but these books have exercises at the end of the stories, and I think both the boys need to think more carefully about what they are reading.
For History Brendan is doing "All Ye Lands" Which is a world history/geography program. I am really pleased with these books. They provide details and reinforcement that help the kids remember the times, places and people of the past.
Science for Brendan is "Concepts and Challenges in Earth Science". I LOVE this text! It is perfect for Brendan. He likes Earth Science, so it should be a natural, so to speak.
Brendan is also doing a standard health book this year, from Seton. I like it because it has a very nice section on pre-born life.
Religion is the 7th grade "Faith and Life" book. He is going to be doing the activity book as well. 
Art this year will be "Art 7 for Young Catholics", an excellent book on great art and how to interpret it.
Music will be piano. The boys' teacher is still on Summer break, so they are practicing what they learned in the middle of the Summer.
We haven't picked an official PE yet. These guys are so active all the time, that it seems like they get enough exercise, but I would like to find something that they can do that will help them learn teamwork.

Paul is doing Saxon 6/5, which is 5th grade math. He should be fine with that as long as he can learn to write neatly, line things up, and read his problems carefully!
He is also doing Seton English and Spelling for 5th grade.
He is reading a 7th grade "Faith and Freedom" reader, and doing the exercises. 
His history this year is "Sea to Shining Sea", which is an American history text. He is also doing a geography notebook of all 50 states. We use the "Trailguide to US Geography" and it gives a good background as we work through history.
Science for Paul is the Apologia, Young Explorers, Zoology 1. "Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day"
There are a few issues with it, but it's a solid program and I think he likes it. There are enough experiments and projects to keep him interested.
Paul is doing Seton's Health 5 as well.
Religion is the "Faith and Life" book for 5th grade. It covers the creed. The activity book that goes with it is excellent.
Art is also the Seton book for 5th grade.
Music will be piano lessons.
PE, well, we have to decide on what we are doing.

The boys are also going to be participating in a co-op on Fridays. John will be doing Shakespeare again, and the other two are going to be doing a drama workshop.
We have several field trips planned in the near future.
I am PRAYING for a smooth year with few interruptions. I have cut out almost everything that took me away from school activities in the past few years. I am going to try to stay as hands on as possible, and be available for the opportunities that arise.
I want our family life, especially in the evenings, to be more consistent and predictable.
I need to be teacher during the day, and then still have time at night to be wife and mom. Too many nights out means that I am not present to the people that God has given me.
Tim is so patient and he would never complain about my being away, but I can't spend time with him if I am never home, and just saying "I love you" as I run out the door isn't what marriage is about.

So... God willing and with us, we will journey through this school year with Faith, Hope and Love.

Bye-Bye Summer.....

Last night we said "good-bye" to summer....really.
We had a great weekend.
On Sunday we went to the annual TORCH picnic. We visited with so many great families and it was so nice to reconnect. We met a new family from California, and welcomed them to our homeschooling group. We had great food and the kids got to spend time with many of their friends.
Yesterday I spent time around the house, putting the finishing touches on my school planning.
Tim and John took a bike ride with a friend, and then we headed off to the pool, under a brooding sky, to have one last swim before it closed for the season.
We were there for a couple of hours before the sky opened, and we had some rain. Then it seemed to clear up a bit, so we called a few of our friends to see if they were up for a swim. They were!
So we had the Andrews, Merkel, Baldwin, and Hoppel families all together, we ordered our pizza and the kids swam, just as before the pizza arrived, it started pouring again. Torrential.

But the kids were already wet, and the rain was warm, so we stayed, ate under the umbrellas, and had a blast, until the first bolt of lightning. Then we packed up our gear, and left in a hurry.

It poured for the rest of the night. It is chilly and dreary outside right now, and it just feels like a school day. I am thankful for the weather actually. It's much harder to buckle down while the sun is begging you to come out and play. We will have more gorgeous weather, but today it just feels a bit like Fall.

The boys are back to school today. More about that later.
It is hard to say Good-bye to the rest and relaxation of Summer, but it is good to be getting back to the routine and progress of school. I have to say I am excited about this year. I REALLY enjoyed having time to play with the boys this summer. We had a lot of fun.

I am looking forward, however, to getting back to watching them learn. They never cease to amaze me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Friday...September

Today we traveled to Lancaster for our first First Friday field trip of the year.
We visited a gorgeous church there that has been in existence since the mid 1900's.
The parish was only the fourth parish established in the colonies in 1741.
You can read more here...
The Sanctuary as you come in...

The Main Altar

The organ is amazing!!

The Stations of the Cross...Beautiful Frescos

The Sacred Heart and the Tabernacle
It was wonderful of Christine to set up the tour for us.
We heard an informative talk by one of the parishioners, we were able to go to Confession, pray the Rosary, and attend First Friday Mass!
Because this is a pilgrim church, we received an indulgence! What a bonus!

Afterward, we went to a local park for a short visit. We needed to get home.
It was a day of blessings!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Marco Rubio- You HAVE to Watch This!

 If people would just pay attention. The Truth is in this man's words, and it's not too late.

Thanks to Barbara @ Mommylife!

Our State Fair.... a great state fair!
Well it's usually a great state fair.
We went today to enjoy the critters and soak up the farmy smells and just see something different, and it wasn't what it has been in past years, but I think the hurricane probably had quite an effect.
There really weren't that many farm animals this time around. The swine and sheep barn was almost empty. Maybe they are bringing more animals in for the weekend.
I was disappointed because the horses were done with all their classes by the time we got there, and there were so few in the barns!
The boys had a great time though.
We saw pigs...

medium and

large...1001 pounds of pork here....

We saw cows and watched this heifer bring home the champion in her class.

Paul really wanted to try milking a cow, but they weren't doing that until later. He had to make do with this display.
Hopefully he will get his chance when we go to Cherry Crest Farm later this month.

Paul decided that he wants to be a sheep farmer. He just loved this lamb in particular.

We looked at the little pens of display animals,

An alpaca

A mini-horse

A frilly goose, instead of a silly one...

Black Bunnie's dad...

An Oreo cow...
 and it was just a really nice day!