Friday, December 28, 2012

Peekaboo - Someone is one!



This time last year we were holding a sleepy newborn in our arms, and now Miss Z is one!

I could not imagine life without her. She is our sunshine baby in the middle of winter - always smiling, laughing, interacting.




Of course today we are all under the weather a bit so there have been a few tears. We had planned a little extended family celebration but we postponed it until New Year's Eve, when we put on a family bash. That should hopefully give time for the germs to clear and for me to clean up post-presents and do more baking.


I will post some cake smashing photos in the New Year.

Meanwhile, give your babies - young and old - a BIG hug and an even BIGGER blessing on this Feast of the Holy Innocents, those first martyrs for Christ. Can you imagine the brutality, the shock, the loss those poor mothers and families felt? It is too easy today to say that the present is full of evil, full of brutality, full of death,so much more than the past, and to question, why? Don't you think that has been true of every age? Isn't that why Jesus was born? To break the cycle of sin, to open up heaven, and to bring us all to Him at the end of times? Let us pray that we remember these holy innocents and remember their sacrifice for all the world, that it brings to mind our own choice as well. Do we choose Christ - would we die for Him - or are we against Him as those precious babies' persecutors were? Do we choose life... or death? An interesting read - On The Feast of the Holy Innocents: A Meditation on the Sins Committed Against Children.


"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
— St. Augustine

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Prayer

I had no intentions of posting here today, but a friend posted the following prayer on Facebook , having shared a status update from New Apologetics. I loved it, and felt the need to share here as well. I hope you had a wonderful day.


A Christmas Prayer (Inspired by St. Thérèse)

My God, I have done little to prepare for Christmas. I have prepared myself poorly for the feast of your birth, and I will celebrate it as poorly. If I say that there is an "ought", I can say also that I have not lived up to it. And now I say I love you.

I do not attempt to reconcile these contraries, for they reconcile only in you. My fallen nature, which loves and desires you so mightily while yet being pressed into the earth, slowly crushed under the weight of failure, unimportance and tragedy, I offer to you as an act of love.

Should I try to burn these sins out of myself, I would only be running away from you; if you do not condemn me, ought I condemn myself? So I must set out to correct myself only by love, being content to fail often and heavily without growing impatient with myself, though the pain and humiliation of failure should consume me. This failure too I offer to you as an act of love.

And even in this I do not expect to succeed, for I know that I shall grow impatient with myself, shall desire my virtues to be greater than they are, shall despair at the sight of the successes of others when I know myself to succeed so little. This I also offer to you as an act of love.

Though you have shown this to me about myself, I should not suppose that I will see it in others however I may desire it and attempt it. I shall see others as below me if they do not meet my standards, and I shall be in fear of those who exceed my capacities. Though I resist it and though even the first movement of thought shall be a torment to me, I know it will happen. I neither excuse it, nor ask (in that way) that it be removed. I only offer it to you as an act of love.

I know also that I will take what is reserved for you, and I will judge myself for my faults. I will determine for myself what needs to be changed, and when; I will set about it diligently, for who can bear to see themselves so bad? In doing so, I will be as a house divided against itself; I will attempt to remove my own speck, for who can see one’s own plank? Yet in addition to all of this, my God, though I may not be able to prevent it happening, I offer myself, as undivided as I know how to give, to You, for Your own judgment. 

So this is my offering to you on this Christmas, my Lord. I offer you all that is distasteful to me in myself, and I desire to bear serenely this trial of being displeasing to myself, though I expect to fail even at that. In my own disfigured person, I offer you the whole of trainwrecked humanity, for we are all alike. I derive my hope only from your love of me, not from my contemplation of my own virtue (which is fortunately lacking, for I would delve into that idolatry were it available to me, and -who knows?- I may be guilty of it already for I do not know myself). I trust only in your passionate love, which I believe transforms my sin into your infinite holiness at every moment, whether or not I feel it.

I therefore come to You this Christmas, my God, with empty hands. If I am not yet grateful for all that has been done for me, I will not be too hard on myself, for I know that it is only because you have not finished giving me what you desire. You will not be outdone in generosity, and when you are through, I am guaranteed to be overwhelmed in it, and the gratitude in which I am so lacking now will pour forth as water and blood from my side, and I will cry out, with You, “it is finished!” And then, my Lord, all shall be well.

Merry Christmas!

I am so excited to wake up tomorrow and see the look of excitement on my kids' faces! Miss Bear is eager to see baby Jesus under the tree, but I suspect the boys are more eager for the presents, both of whom went to bed with their erector sets, wishing to find another waiting under the tree. As my oldest said when I asked him about taking them to bed, "Just in case we get another one so we can combine them to build really neat stuff." So there you go, stuff. :)

Really, though, I remember the excitement and the feeling that I would never fall asleep ever. And then of course waking up incredibly early. (I sure hope my kids do not get up that early!!!) As a mom, however, I was ready for bed time just like any other day. We are all a little under the weather so we decided to go to Christmas morning Mass and hopefully get a good night's rest instead.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyous day! Let me leave you with some photos of my quiet evening and a little Christmas prayer, from me to you.







May Jesus, the newborn Son of God and Mary, dwell in your heart and increase your trust in him.

May your trust in God strengthen you in your daily life so that you can respond to him with your whole heart, as Mary did.

May God reward you for your kindness by warming his own love and deepening your communion with Jesus throughout the coming year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Final Plans: last of Advent and Christmas

My brother and his family are in town. The presents are wrapped, thank goodness! We are making cookies tomorrow - a family affair. The last Advent prayers will be said. My husband is off work now through January 2nd on a much-deserved (and much-needed) break. The entire company shuts down for the holidays. Isn't that nice? This company has been the friendliest family company he has worked for. They all put in a lot of hours, but the company has a nice pattern of up and down time (versus continuously long hours with no end in sight like previous employers). And, finally, we are all excited for Christmas to arrive!

On a side note, I sing the appropriate verses of O Come O Come Emmanuel each night after praying each O Antiphon. As I have mentioned before, I cannot sing well and for the life of me, I cannot catch the right tune for the other verses in this song. I said as much the other night, and my oldest (he's seven), said, "It sounds good to me." That boy is such a sweetie.

So onto the plans for the last few days of Advent and for the Christmas season. As always, these are my plans. Life happens, but I do at least try to keep all the prayers intact (though on occasion even that slips).

This post is rather long as there are so many wonderful feast days to celebrate during Christmas!


Last few days of Advent...

  • Finish up the Advent side of the Jesse tree. Work on making the 12 Days of Christmas add-on to have ready.
  • Pray the last of the O Antiphons.
  • Continue praying around the Advent wreath (replace the greens Christmas Eve).
  • Joseph and Mary arrive at Bethlehem (the nativity scene).
  • Finish Jotham's Journey: a Storybook for Advent (I am loving this book this Advent - so is Skipper!).
  • Final grocery shopping.
  • Ice-skating on Sunday.
  • Bake cookies on Sunday (ice or wait until Christmas Eve?).
  • Go look at Christmas lights.
  • Make starlight cookies.
  • Make and order photo book for Miss Z's first year.

Christmas Day

  • Attend Christmas Mass.
  • Reveal Christ candle.
  • Lay baby Jesus in the manger.
  • Have orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
  • Celebrate Christmas with husband's family.
  • Begin wise men on their journey.

December 26th: Feast of St. Stephen

  • Prayer.
  • Celebrate Christmas with my family.
  • Read the story of St. Stephen in the Book of Acts, chapter 6 and 7.
  • Sing "Old King Wenceslas."
  • Do something with the corporeal works of mercy for the poor (poor box?).

December 27th: Feast of St. John the Apostle

December 28th: Feast of the Holy Innocents & Miss Z's Birthday

  • Prayer and Blessing of the Children. Add prayer for the unborn and the end to abortion.
  • Listen to Coventry Carol.
  • Maybe a symbolic breakfast? Oatmeal or pancakes with raspberry preserves? (To symbolize innocent blood shed.)
  • Have small family celebration for Miss Z's birthday, which means family, a few presents and a cake.

December 30th: Feast of the Holy Family and My Nephew's Baptism

  • I have Holy Family puppets the kids can make if time allows and they want. They are something I had found a few years ago, but never made.
  • Do something together as a family - outside of the baptism.
  • Quietly renew wedding vows between my husband and I.
  • Pray for all families and for our country to uphold the sanctity of the marriage bond, which is under attack.
  • Attend my *godson's* baptism. ;)

December 31st: New Year's Eve

  • Have our annual family party. Music, pictures, games, food, fun.
  • Use a Saint's Name Generator to pick out a family saint for the year 2013.

January 1st: Mary, Mother of God

January 3rd: Most Holy Name of Jesus

January 5th: St. John Neumann (by Skipper's request)

  • Prayer.
  • Plan future visit to a prayer center nearby with dedication to St. John Neumann (or possible field trip IF the weather cooperates).
  • Do something extra based on his life? I have some ideas...

January 6th: Epiphany of the Lord

  • Kings finally arrive in Bethlehem.
  • House blessing.
  • Sing "We Three Kings." Kids dress up and act out or act out using nativity sets?
  • Star-shaped pancakes for breakfast or lunch.
  • Make a king cake.

January 13th: Baptism of the Lord

  • Prayer - repeating of baptismal vows as we light each candle.
  • Table decor: one white candle for each family member surrounded by shells.
  • Go down memory lane - baptismal candles, pictures, gowns, etc.
  • Make baptism tree ornament to hang on Christmas tree (have picture of each child and baptismal date). Make one for our godchildren and send next Christmas?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Light One Candle: an Advent Song

A few years ago, when my boys were in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our then local parish, my oldest came home with a copy of a simple song, "Light One Candle" by Natalie Sleeth. I pulled it out this year and am singing it as I light each appropriate candle.

I love to sing, but in truth, I was not born a singer. This song, however, transforms even a bad pitch like mine into something halfway decent. Plus, my kids - ok, Miss Bear though sometimes Critter too - enjoy trying to sing with me. The good part? The song is very simple, both in lyrics and in melody so it is an easy one for us to learn and do.

In the hopes of sharing the song with you, I tried researching it, but this was the best I could find. For those who can read sheet music, check out sheet music plus. You can see the music easily enough. This particular version is in duet form, but we simply sing together using the top melody. You have the option of paying a very small fee to own the sheet music.

For those who prefer listening and picking up on the song, take a look at this group of children singing it.

Here are the lyrics. Simple, right?

Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to everyone.
He comes. He comes.

**For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.**

Advent Plans: Week 3


Can you believe Advent is nearly over? I feel like it has barely begun! Thankfully this past week went much better than the last one. We still have a pretty full week ahead of us to prepare for Christmas and the busy week that follows.

Miss Bear was very excited to finally have the pink candle lit. Now the three older kids can each blow out a candle without having to fuss over whose turn it is.

Today, we set out a few items. A cute little ceramic dish my grandmother gifted me one year:


We put the empty manger in the nativity scene, awaiting baby Jesus:


I hid the baby Jesus in this mini stocking and hung it on the tree for safe keeping. (And away from eager little hands who love baby Jesus so very, very much.)


Mary and Joseph started their journey to Bethlehem up in the kids room by their mini tree. One year I hope to purchase this La Posada figurine for this part of our tradition. Until then, I use the Mary and Joseph from our Holy Family set. Each night, once the kids are asleep I move Mary and Joseph to another part of the house. Finally, on Christmas Eve, they arrive in "Bethlehem."


We have a crazy, wild tree to transform this year. Living in small town Ohio, we did not find a decent place to buy a Christmas tree. My dad suggested cutting one from the back of their property. We found a promising one, but once inside, the tree took on a life of its own! Well, it is definitely unique and will write itself into this year's Christmas story, and no doubt we will remember it just as we do stories from previous years - the year of the flat tire and sick cat, the first quiet year of no traveling when I was eight months pregnant with Critter, the year we had the stomach flu...


We started decorating the tree a bit - some lights and garland. And a baby. ;) Miss Z did not like the garland one bit. She cried and if it blocked her path, she would sit and not crawl over or around it.


This week, I am trying to keep the days as low-key as possible before next week's craziness, but we do have some things to do.

Tomorrow is a day of fun. My husband has a bunch of days to take off and use up before the end of January. We had planned to go to a certain aquarium until we looked closer and saw the ridiculous price for a one hour or so experience. Instead, we are taking the kids to play at an indoor park and do some bowling. As it nears dusk, we will finish decorating the tree and blessing it. And, of course, begin adding the O Antiphons to our prayer time.

I have to bake cupcakes for Skipper's religion class on Wednesday. They are having a birthday party for Jesus. I thought it would be cute to top the cupcakes with pictures from the nativity scene. My parish is also offering a prayer service that night so I hope to join if it does not conflict with the class and Miss Z is finally over this last tooth coming in.

Friday is the first day of winter and I want to do a few things with the kids: make some animal treats to put outside and I want to have no lights and electronics for the entire day. Once it grows dark, we will use candles and then perhaps we can bring out some board games. My brother and his family are due in from out of state sometime that day so I am not sure what will happen.

Other than that, we need to finish up a bit of cleaning to-dos, wrap gifts, and do the regular daily routine plus add in a bit of shopping, a little lab work (for Miss Bear), and Mass and confession. That will keep us busy!

Have a blessed third week of Advent!






Thursday, December 13, 2012

St. Lucia for the First Time


For the past few years I have wanted to celebrate the feast of St. Lucia, an early Church martyr. Last year we read the book, Lucia: Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde, which is a very nice book. It explains the story of St. Lucia well, and easily shares a popular way in which families celebrate this feast day - with the oldest girl dressed in white with a red sash and a candle wreath upon her head as she carries a sweet bread for breakfast to others in her household. Her brothers tag along in white gowns and star hats, carrying star staffs, and her younger sisters attend her in white gowns and tinsel halos. The family sings a song and enjoys their breakfast before sharing it, along with song and company to neighbors. This tradition was born in Sweden and has spread throughout the world since then. I think it is a beautiful tradition and one I hope to try out at least one year once Miss Bear is just a bit older and Miss Z can join in the fun.

However, here I was this morning without any form of sweet bread made (the days really are consuming me) - and I had no desire to hit the stores to buy gluten-free cinnamon rolls at $8 for four rolls. Yet, I also did not want to pass up this feast day again.

So... I found an extremely simple - and meaningful! - way to bring more to this feast day. Even better, the tradition's roots point back to the country of Hungary, among a few other European countries, which is the birthplace of my mother-in-law's parents.

The Planting of the Wheat

It is tradition to plant wheat in a shallow dish on the Feast of St. Lucia for a variety of reasons:
  • There will be new green shoots come Christmas, reminding us of new life, of Jesus born in Bethlehem.
  • Wheat reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life.
  • The name Bethlehem itself means house of bread.
  • We might also remember the parables of Jesus where He uses wheat as starring role. One such verse:
"Lord, my soul is the flour into which I invite You to knead Your grace. As I feel punched and beaten and slapped around by life, let me realize that You are but kneading me into someone new and good." Matthew 13:33 
  • And of course, wheat reminds us of the Eucharist itself.
Well, considering I had no wheat berries in the house or any reason to, as we are a (mostly) gluten-free household due to celiac disease, I brought out our cat grass to grow in a little jam jar. The kids went out and filled the jar with driveway stones and dirt. (By the way, digging up the dirt would have been much easier had the ground not been frozen! ;))


Once inside (and de-thawed), we added the seed, covered with soil, and watered it a bit. As long as we keep it moist - not drenched - there should be some fresh sprouts come Christmas. Currently, our jar is sitting near the nativity, and come Christmas morning a candle can burn near it to remind us of the Light of Christ. The sprouts can also be cut and used as a soft bed for baby Jesus. Eventually I plan on gifting the grass to the cat... assuming of course he does not find it first!

For more on this tradition and other traditions for the Feast of St. Lucia, check out Penitents.org, where you can also purchase a wheat kit.

See Miss Bear peeking out? And a line of dirty boots by the broom. ;)

To wrap up our day, my husband and the kids put up a few outside lights. Over the past few years, I have been tweaking how we decorate and prepare the house physically for Christmas, and do my best to fit it into our liturgical year, and to be more intentional in how we decorate. It is a work in progress, but putting up our outdoor lights today, on the Feast of St. Lucia seemed fitting as she is associated with light - from lighting up the darkest day of the year to the candles on her head to her name, which means "light." Every year it makes me so happy to see how a simple strand of light can bring such a glow and sense of warmth.

One last thing that I thought of doing today, but never found time for, was having the kids make their gifts for their grandparents and dad. This year we choose to make picture candles. I bought ridiculously expensive candles (Yankee candles) - so much $$ but they smell so good and burn so nicely. They are jar candles, and once I print pictures of the kids off, they can attach them to the outside using a glue wash (glue watered down). Then, every time the candle is lit, they will be reminded of the kids. I thought it would be a nice touch for today to tie it in with the light theme, but never mind, we'll get around to it.

Prayer to St. Lucia

Saint Lucia, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and sin.

By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of all men.

Saint Lucia, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.

**For the fun of it, I also linked up with other bloggers who celebrated this feast day at Catholic Cuisine. Check out what they did!**

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gifts of Wonder


  
"Each year, God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.

"The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld…Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.

"Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.

"The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.…Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.

"Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’

"…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious and spiritual depths of ourselves.

~~ Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem.,THE PRIEST, Oct. ‘87, p.26

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent: Take 2

No, really, here we are on the second Sunday of Advent. (I don't care that technically it's actually Monday - it's still Sunday to me!) Last week sure took off on me. This is definitely an Advent that has been difficult to stay in the moment, to stay focused on the bigger picture, to keep my eyes on Jesus. The good Lord knows I am trying.

We had a bit of illness that came into Advent with us, and then another teeny tiny bug that followed on the heels of it - mostly the girls, and just enough to cause multiple restless and sleepless nights. For them, for me. Add to that an exposure to gluten (I can only speculate) and the end of the first week of Advent found a very stressed-out, way too emotional, spaced-out, and not herself mama. Thankfully, I woke up this morning feeling much more myself - and feeling quite penitent as well.

In the midst of all that ickiness, we did do some of the items on our to-do list at least, and the kids did enjoy themselves. The Advent wreath was a special moment of the day. The kids love eating by candlelight (so do I). The Jesse Tree is a favorite with Skipper. Finding candy canes in their boots on the Feast of St. Nicholas along with a special St. Nick's cocoa for breakfast was a hit. Today we brought out the kiddie nativity sets which the kids love. They played with them all afternoon and took them to bed with them. I loved watching them play act and the phrases that came out of their mouths:
"Look Mom, my baby Jesus is smiling!"
"I love baby Jesus. He's my favorite."
"Look, all of my people are surrounding him [baby Jesus]."
"Mary and Joseph are on their way to Bethlehem. [holding Mary on the donkey and moving her as Joseph "walks" near her.] Baby Jesus hasn't been born yet."
"We can't put Mary or Joseph or Baby Jesus in the manger yet. It's not time. We have to wait." 
Our family nativity set still needs put up. We ran out of time today since we had a little birthday celebration for my mom. I baked her a German chocolate cake (finally), which was her "first" gluten-free birthday cake since just last week she had blood results come back positive for celiac disease. Now she joins the boys and I in the celiac rank. Later, we all went to see a Holiday Pops symphony.

Now we are home. The kids are in bed. It is late and morning will come too soon, but I wanted to pop on to share my plans for this second week of Advent and to wish you all a peaceful week.

Continue with... the Jesse Tree, the Advent wreath, my own morning readings and meditations.

Monday... Put up the empty nativity. Slowly add nativity figures throughout the coming days (but not the Holy Family or the three kings). Hang up stockings. A letter to Jesus for the angels to take away???

Wednesday... Our Lady of Guadalupe. Enjoy a taco salad for dinner. Read Our Lady of Guadalupe and watch Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe. Do some artwork (bean mosaic).

Thursday... Have cinnamon buns in the morning for the Feast of St. Lucia. Read Lucia Saint of Light. Have husband and the kids put up some outside decorations and lights.

Saturday... Find Christmas tree.

Sometime during the week... Cut limbs and make outdoor wreath (love the smell!). Make pinecone tree ornaments with the kids (think spray paint and lots of glitter). Attempt to learn new Advent song. We are not singers whatsoever but a part of me really, really wants that to be true. ;)

Mostly, I want to enjoy my children, read and cuddle, and feel this time of preparation pierce through me and ready us all for Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Midnight Odds & Ends

It's midnight. 12:02 to be exact. Late. Too late. Usually I am fast asleep by now. But baby is awake and I feel restless myself. (Please, Lord, let it not be another migraine!)

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We had a low-key week. Miss Z was sick with a high fever for 3 solid days and a night of bad congestion. A new tooth erupted to finish off her week. Poor girl. She is all smiles now - and laughs and lalala tongue noises because she loves to stick hers out. I think she's skipping crawling. She'll army crawl for the rare treasure and even try to get on her knees at times and hop a bit like a frog, but now she is very interested in standing - for very long times as a certain back can attest to. ;)

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Advent plans... they look so nice on paper - so nice and organized. It really is too bad that does not work when you go to implement it. All my first week's items are on my dining room table. I have no wall space for my much loved Jesse tree. I never got around to cutting greenery for our wreath and it is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow and maybe on Monday. And I still have the bulk of my shopping to do. What a mood killer that is. Only very rarely do I like to shop.

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So today was beautiful but busy. We used up the morning at the library and grocery store since we were house bound all week. At home I painted the front door which needed it badly. Of course Miss Z was so tempted she crawled 15 feet to stick her hand on the stoop, in the wet paint. Talk about motivation. And no sooner had I finished painting I came back to the door to see finger smudges. Ahhh! One day I will have smudge-free doors and it will be too quiet, and I fully expect I will love/hate that day.

I also baked up brownies for the kids and my husband. Of course I wanted something so I made pumpkin bars which I had never got around to making this fall. Boy, they are good but not good for me. I am getting pretty tired of food and how it affects me. Sometimes I dream of being blissfully unaware of what food can do to a person and just enjoying a bite of whatever. Or going out with a friend wherever. Or kissing your husband whenever. I suppose that's a dangerous path to go down but I haven't quite figured out how to stop the wishful thinking.

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Pictures... Blogger says I am all full and must pay $3/month to put pictures up. Really??? There must be another way. I just haven't figured it out.

Which means if you stuck through this wordy post, with too many "ands" and runon sentences and improper English AND no pictures, then either you are bored at 1:00am or you are super sweet. God bless you.