Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Christ Crucified by Francisco de Zurbaran

 "Carry Christ crucified in the oratory of your heart."
~ St. Paul of the Cross

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meanwhile, in New Zealand...

Where my son shakes Prince William's hand...

But doesn't even notice what Kate is wearing!

Kevvy: this Kevvy
If you haven't been over to read Kevin's Middle Earth travel blog, you're missing out!  The pictures are amazing -- in spite of his ongoing camera difficulties --  and the adventures... ?  Things that would only happen to Kevin!   Run over and see what's new in New Zealand!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In the Valley of Fire, NV -- Last Weekend

Best hike ever! (Well, in Nevada., anyway...)  The Valley of Fire, which is approximately 30 miles north of Las Vegas (off of I 15), is a great drive-through national park with amazing red rock formations and panoramic western-desert-style vistas.  The oldest and largest national park in Nevada, Valley of Fire is a well manicured and maintained tourist destination; all along the scenic route you find picnic areas, restrooms, and photo stops -- marked clearly for those who just aren't sure where on earth in all this vastness  they should stop for a photo.   

Unfortunately, though, there are only a couple marked hiking trails in the park, but one of them is a doozy!  A kid rock-climbing wonderland and super cool historic site, full of petroglyphs,  Mouse's Tank Trail is named for a nineteenth century bad guy nicknamed "Mouse" who eluded capture by hiding in this maze of rock canyons.  The "tank" part of the moniker refers to the water "catch" areas within the rocks that allowed Mouse to survive indefinitely while hiding.  Lots of fun to imagine him hiding within the caves and tunnels, with lawmen hot on his tail -- but never finding him. You can see how Mouse got his nickname!  
L-R: William, Gabe (top), Anna (bottom), Cathy, Theresa

A fun and unusual feature of this hike was the discovery that the sand on the trail, the accumulation of hundreds (thousands?) of years of wind abrasion off of the surrounding sandstone rock walls, is amazingly fine and smooth.  Softer even than Huntington Beach sand -- and that is soft, indeed!  Dan and the kids all took off their shoes for this hike.  (I kept my sneaks on, though, because my hands were too full of camera to carry my shoes...)  The cool early April temperatures allowed for barefoot rock climbing, as well, though we were thinking that, once the real heat kicks in you'd have to be careful where you stepped out here in the hot desert!

Here are a few shots from the day:  

We translated this petroglyph thus:  Don't underestimate how important it is to aim carefully before jumping off cliff to catch deer with pointy antlers.

Oh, by the way!  Did you notice we had an extra child added to the normal, workaday four at home?  We had Theresa home for a cameo appearance last weekend, as a good friend (Carl B., for those who know him) was passing through Vegas on the way to Cali.  He dropped Theresa home with us on Friday and got to have her until he came back through Sunday morning.  We get her back today, though, for Easter break, and will have her home until Easter Thursday!  Woohoo!

We can't be sure, but we think this petroglyph  has something to do with  aliens hovering over a lolipop tree, watching a deer playing soccer under high voltage lines.

And this one has got to be saying:  Iguana squashed on highway, everybody run away!

This one says:  For heaven's sake, children, get down off those rocks before you break your necks!

This one looks like: Get your little self to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days...

Myself and my only admirer (deluded fellow).  
Greetings from Nevada and the American Southwest!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Little Boys, and Big Birthdays

Gabe's birthday! And guess who's hit the Double Digits?!

Taken at Valley of Fire State Park last weekend

Gabey got a birthday Gift Certificate from Grandma and Grandpa in his card last week. Thank-you, Dan and Sharon!  You have to know that there are few gifts more welcome to a ten year old than the freedom and challenge of a $50 Walmart shopping excursion.  Oh my goodness; let me tell ya...

William and I tagged along for the shopping event Friday afternoon.  I drove us over to Wmart and steered the shopping cart, and William offered lots of moral support; i.e., suggestions about what he would like to have.  (William's like I am with Dan: we love to spend someone else's money.)  But, Gabe had his own plan.

This kid is a real shopper.  Up and down the aisles he led ust. Checked out the sporting goods department, perused the toy department.  Back and forth, forth and back we went -- comparison shopping; thinking and figuring, figuring and thinking; double-checking; adding up prices.  Shushing William.  Re-adding prices; putting things back; adding cheaper items ($.97 Whoppers) in order to up the quality in other cases ($8,.00 Captain America frisbee/shield thingy); refiguring totals.  Then, finally, after a good hour of pondering, Gabey led the way to the cash register, passably satisfied with his booty and expecting to have money left on his card for another day.  Good boy, Gabe; I was proud of his discernment!

But Gabe was anxious.  He watched carefully as the cashier rang up each item; you could see the gears turning in his head as he watched the totals and estimated the addition of the next item.  The parachute toy was a dollar more than expected; the math wheels turn, Gabe's brow furrows... Things were adding up much faster than he expected...  Finally, ringing up the last item, the cashier unceremoniously announced the total:

 "That'll be $40.18." 

Forty Dollars? He handed over the gift card.  Reluctantly. That $50.00 disappeared fast!  

As we were driving out of the parking lot, Gabe thanked me for taking him. He and William, both, were pleased with the goodies they were bringing home. "That was really fun," Gabe told me.  And I appreciated that, being a mood therapy shopper myself -- but I really sympathized when he added,"up to the paying for it part."  Because, yeah...  handing over the money really is a buzz kill.  Gabey is the kind of guy who is sensitive to that.

Happy Birthday to a little-growing-bigger guy, who understands the value of things -- material and otherwise -- better than most grown ups!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Live Jesus

“Men engaged in horticulture tell us that if a word is written on a sound almond seed and it is placed again its shell, carefully wrapped up and planted, whatever fruit the tree bears will have that same writtten word stamped on it. For myself…I cannot approve the methods of those who try to reform a person by beginning with external things, such as bearings, dress or hair. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin inside. ‘Be converted to me with your whole heart,’ God said. ‘My child, give me your heart.’  Since the heart is the source of actions, as the heart is, so are they…
For this reason…..I have wished above all else to engrave and inscribe on your heart this holy, sacred maxim, LIVE JESUS! I am sure that your life, which comes from the heart just as the almond tree comes from its seed, will after that produce all its actions — which are its fruits — inscribed and engraved with this sacred word of salvation.”
-- St. Francis DeSales

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Law of Sacrifices

 “Unless the grain of wheat falling to the ground die, itself remaineth alone.” The power to find life through death makes the seed nobler than the diamond. In falling to the ground it loses its outer envelope which is restraining the life within it. But once this outer skin dies in the ground, then life pushes forth into the blade.
So too, unless we die to the world with its vices and its concupiscences, we shall not spring forth into life everlasting. If we are to live a higher life, we must die to the lower life; if we live in the lower life of this world, we die to a higher life, which is Christ. To put the whole law in the beautiful paradox of Our Divine Lord: If we wish to save our life, we must lose it. 
~ Fulton J. Sheen

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Filed Under: Boys Will Be Boys, Thank God

Found on the computer desk, near where Gabriel (9) does his Math every day:

If I were a politically correct kind of Mom, this might concern me. You know what I mean, of course: the tanks firing, the screaming X-eyed soldier, the use of "an" before a word beginning with a "q"...

But, except for the grammatical error, it doesn't concern me a bit. I laughed when I saw the little boy mayhem here!

Sure, it occurred to me (as I ran to get my camera to take a picture of the war ravaged math page)
that there are many in this P.C. world who would judge me an unwise, uncaring, or ignorant parent for laughing at an apparently violent doodle.

But, well, now...  I mean, really?   As if my little boy were going to plot a takeover!  I wouldn't be surprised if he were planning a raid of his sisters' Skittles stash, and he's most definitely working out a plan for the defeat of all Bad Guys, past, present, and future...  But that's about it.  Nothing to worry about.  Not from our nine-year-old, anyway -- or, for that matter, from 99.9% of all the other little boys on the planet.  Even the ones that draw tanks obliterating stick figures -- and the ones that get suspended for pretending their fingers are guns.

Certainly there are a lot of other things -- other people -- to worry about, though.  It's been a hard few years, and our generation has good reason to fear and obsess about violence and terrorism. It's a scary world out there! But normal, wholesome, little boyness never caused such tragedy.  The demons at work in the shootings and bombings of recent years -- have been drugs (legal and illegal),  religious extremism, and mental illness.  And, certainly more often than not, they've been instigated by true demons.  No sense pretending the devil isn't a part of it all!

But, an unrecognized part of the destruction caused by the senseless violence in our world -- and a heartbreaking part! -- is the demonization of the natural God-given instincts of little boys to act like little boys.

Sticks and stones and puppy dog bones.  Tanks and guns and daring do.

This is what little boys are about.  It's how God made them. They get dirty; they climb rocks; they do messy math problems (which they get mostly right!); they draw tanks; and they hate school -- because it takes time away from drawing more tanks -- or building them in the backyard out of sticks and scraps and little boy imagination.

 Little boys know nothing about political correctness. They strive instinctively for manliness.  Adventure!  Action!  Glory! They cut through the crap and get straight to the heart of life.  They know instinctively what most of us forget: that the very best thing you can do is fight for good and vanquish evil.

Look out for the "vanquishing"!  That's the noisy, messy, violent part, hard to miss in most little boys.  But watch for the the "good" bit, too, because that's a key factor in the equation that makes wild little boys turn into good men.

Case in point, the same little guy that drew those tanks up at the top of this post also made a shrine in his room for all his "sanctas" and strangle-hugged me around the neck when I told him he could keep the little Stations of the Cross pamphlet he'd asked to borrow. Our little Gabe's mind whirls constantly with ideas and plans for special gifts and surprises he can make for people. He's crazy and wild, yes; but he's also kind, tender, and a little shy. A simple honest little soul like most little boys, his heart for goodness is as fertile as his mind for war games.

Put those two instincts together and with a little of the heavenly magic of grace, you've got a Bl. Miguel Pro, or a St. Sebastian... Or the priest at our parish church doing daily battle for souls...  Or a husband and father raising saints in a world that hates saints...

That battling-for-good thing is why God made little boys the way He did.  This world is full of evil that needs fighting. God bless all the little boys who grow up to do that for us!