Spring has Sproinged

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Sproinnnnggg! was the sound practically all the plants made this past Friday and Saturday when we had a couple of days of 70+ (really 80+) degree weather after weeks hovering in the 50s, with an occasional brush with 60 and the rare 65.  Up until now, it was as if all the usual springtime flowers had been holding their collective breath and cautiously putting out a flower or two.  The daffodils were out, but they seemed tentative and surprisingly long-lasting due to the preserving qualities of the cold.  The hardier plants (like my lawn of violets) sent up their leaves and a good number of blooms, but not nearly as prolific as if we had been closer to normal temperatures.

All that changed Friday when we got well into the 70s.  You could sense the plants soaking in the sunshine and warmth, getting ready to explode in their usual springtime array of colors.  Saturday, the explosion happened.  The tulip pictured above was a tightly-closed bud Thursday, but in its full glory on Saturday by midday.  Our dogwood had been holding its buds closed until Saturday when they all opened out simultaneously and started to take on color.  A double-flowered cherry tree in a park nearby went from pink buds Friday to a cloud of whipped cream today.

I took advantage of the warm temperatures Saturday to do some work on our front yard, which is a work in progress that I hope to transform from vine-infested and weed choked to a clover lawn with violets and other wild flowers on the edges.  I had to dig out the daylilies that didn’t really bloom because of a lack of sun, but just sent their leaves to hang over the path to the front door.  They were also choking out the iris I put in, so out they had to come.  I also put in a couple of witch hazel plants to serve as a demarcation for the front (after taking out the falling-down fence last fall) as well as a native bleeding heart.  The weather was perfect for working the ground, and today’s nearly constant rain is a bonus for the plants I put in.

Even though the temperatures are predicted to get rather chilly again, the danger of frost seems to have passed, and all the plants know it.  Spring truly has sproinged this year.

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Easter Dresses

DSC06980I didn’t promise the twins that I would finish these dresses in time for Easter, so I was careful to call them springtime dresses before they were done.  Turns out, I finished them prior to Easter Vigil, so the twins did, in fact, get Easter dresses.  Not too bad for sewing what was essentially four tops and two skirts in about three weeks (working after kids had gone to bed and a little on weekends).

The outer fabric is a very thin cotton jersey knit that needed a lining.  Since the skirt is so ruffled, it didn’t need lined, but the top certainly did.  To make it easy, I drafted a raglan sleeve pattern based on their measurements, and checked against a t-shirt to figure out where to put the arm seams.  The part that took me the longest was figuring out how to get the sleeves sewn together so that the seam was hidden.  Here’s how I did it (but I’m sure there’s an easier way).

The other techinque I finally got to work was running a gathering stitch.  Usually, I use thousands of pins and sub-divide repeatedly.  Since the skirts are the full width of the fabric, this would have taken hours and not really have looked that great.  This time, by setting my tension at almost zero, I was able to pull the thread easily and get some pretty decent gathers.

Easter dresses for the twins that should get a lot of use this spring and summer given how comfy they are and how easy it is to put them on.  Since it was such a quick and easy project (once I figured out the sleeves…), I may have to work with Yakum to sew her a similar dress.

 

Holy Week Begins

Today was Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (or, more simply, Palm Sunday (in the Extraordinary Form, last week was Passion Sunday, this week is Palm Sunday, but in the Ordinary form, this week gets called Passion Sunday because the Passion is read)).  We remember Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, where the people all shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

And yet, come Good Friday, those shouts of joy have turned to derision where the crowd asks for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified.  It’s a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, you could say.  It’s also our last chance to make good on our Lenten promises, and a chance to enter deeply into the mysteries of Jesus’ passion and death so that we can join in the glorious resurrection on Easter.  As our parish priest said this morning, this is the high point of our year; without this week, we wouldn’t be [in mass].

Wishing you all a truly holy Holy Week, and may you be open to the graces that come from joining yourself to the passion.

Signs of Spring

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It is noticeably springtime here in the DC area, below average daily temperatures aside.  Here are a few signs I’ve noticed (some unique to here, others a bit more universal):

  1. Crocus and daffodils are in bloom.  There’s a beautiful stretch on the Mt. Vernon trail by Arlington National Cemetery that always makes me think of “I wandered lonely as a cloud…” this time of year.  Now, given the warm February, crocus have been blooming for an extended period of time already, but slowed down once the chillier March hit.
  2. The day is noticeably longer.  Just after daylight saving time, I had to use my lights in the morning for about a week, and now they’re not really needed unless it’s cloudy when I leave for work.  This also means I have a couple of very tricky spots on the commute that put the sun right in my eyes.  Or at least I do for about another week or so, after which the sun will be high enough that it won’t be too bad.
  3. The squirrels are out in force, to include the suicide sqad ones.  Closer to home, they’ve established a squirrel superhighway across our back deck as they scurry about looking for food (to include digging up bulbs).  Of course, this greatly annoys the cats, who watch the squirrels go back and forth, but can’t get them because of the window.
  4. A marked increase in tourists.  Judging by the matching outerwear (usually windbreakers, sometimes sweatshirts or baseball caps), the spring break field trip to DC crowd has hit.
  5. And, finally, the wind.  I don’t actually mind the cold we’ve had (about 10 degrees below normal for March is what I’ve read) because the days do start to warm up, and at least the angle of the sun makes it feel warmer.  I am, however, done with the wind.  We’ve had several days in a row with wind around 20 mph, which makes biking difficult.  The gusts have been pretty bad, too–30 mph and up.  Friday I was certain I was going to get blown off the bridge when crossing the Potomac.  Rationally I know that wasn’t going to happen, but a gust caught me just the wrong way and had me holding on pretty tight.

Happy Springtime!

Latin Hymn Set in Polish Hymnody

Wow.  Just wow.

I ran across this video the other day when looking for different settings of Stabat Mater.  The Palestrina is, of course, fantastic, as is Domenico Scarlatti’s motet.  If you have the time Dvorak’s piece is well worth the listen, if a little tough on the emotions (I would love to see it live in concert some day).   This, however, is in an entirely different category and may be my new favorite:

Jerycho is Polish group that records chant and other ancient music written in the area that is now Poland, with adaptations by their director.  Their website, http://jerycho.net/, indicates (through Google translate, so not going on first hand information here) that they focus on research and live performance, but promise some CDs are forthcoming.  I really hope they relase their music broadly, because the world needs more of this kind of beauty.

 

Haircuts All Around

Last weekend, Tertia and Quarta got their hair cut.  This is a sort of momentous occasion because they’ve only had one hair cut previously, they were about two to trim their bangs and get the hair out of their eyes.  Otherwise, their hair hasn’t been cut, not even trimmed.

Tertia, whose straight blonde locks extended well beyond her waist, was the instigator.  About three weeks prior, she requested that I cut her hair.  Our rule has been that you have to wait two weeks after you ask to make sure you really do want your hair cut.  She actually asked once last summer, and, when two weeks had passed, she changed her mind (much to my, and my wife’s, relief).  After two weeks, she reminded us that she wanted her hair cut, but we just ran out of time to make it happen.  So last weekend she made certain it was on the list of activities.

Quarta happily went along with the proposal. Her light brown hair fell in very gentle waves to just above her waist.  Both liked having long hair, but were getting tired of the time it took to brush it and, Tertia especially, did not like all the tangles.  We discussed cutting off at least ten inches to donate to Locks of Love, and both girls were very happy with the idea.  I think I took 12 off Tertia and 11 off Quarta.  Tertia’s hair now falls just below her shoulders and she’s thrilled with how easy it is to brush.  Quarta wound up with a blunt cut that falls just above her shoulders, frames her face, and is super cute (if I do say so myself).  She’s a little more of a princess, but she loves how it looks and likes using pretty barrettes.

My wife also got in on the fun.  Her pattern is to get a short hair cut to donate, and let it grow for years until she can donate again.  This time I took about 15 inches off.  Her hair now comes to her chin, and also frames her face very nicely.

Ikinji got a buzzcut.  Not an extreme one, but he had gone about a year and a half without a cut.  He was past the really awkward hair phase and it was back to pretty manageable.  I offered to just trim it some if he liked having the length, but he decided for a buzz so he wouldn’t have to brush it.  Not a bad choice for an eight year old boy.

When I cut hair, I have to stop and remind myself that it always comes out shorter than you think it will.  I think I did a pretty good job of it this time, and hit the mark with everyone.  If nothing else, they all seem very happy, and they don’t look too bad, either (if I do say so myself).

Way of the Cross as Training

The Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent is the Transfiguration.  In the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, Cycle A, B, and C for the Ordinary Form, you get the Transfiguration.  It sort of makes you think the Church wants you to pay attention to this event.

Our parish priest used the standard idea that the Transfiguration took place in order to strengthen the Apostles and make them more resilient in the face of the upcoming Passion and Death as a springboard into why praying the Stations of the Cross (the Way of the Cross) is so important.  In a nutshell, the Way of the Cross is a sort of training regimen for our spiritual lives.  If we really are to die with Christ so we can rise with Him again, then we, too, need to walk the way that he showed us–the Way of the Cross.

Further, our priest linked the prayer from the Liguori Stations (“I love You, Jesus, my love/I repent of ever having offended You./Never let me separate myself from You again./Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”) with the Divine Mercy prayer:  Jesus, I trust in You.  In essence, Liguori’s prayer can be encapsulated as a statement of absolute trust in Jesus–even knowing that our own cross awaits, we place ourselves completely in Jesus’ hands, knowing better that He will take care of us.

The important thing is to pray the stations during this time of Lent, so taht we can meditate on all that Jesus went through, practice it the way an athelete runs laps or a musician plays scales, so that we can actually walk along with Jesus daily and meet Him joyfully in Heaven, which is the real destination of the Way of the Cross.

First Sunday of Lent

In the Extraordinary Form, the Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent relates when Jesus went into the desert and was tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1-11).  In the homily, our priest focused in on the second temptation, where the devil challenges Jesus to throw himself from the top of the temple in Jerusalem to prove that He is the Son of God.  Jesus replies that scripture states not to put God to the test.

Usually, this temptation and reply is taught pretty straight on:  the temptation we have is to test God at every turn, such as “If I do this, You do that” or, “If You want me to do this, give me a sign” or, even worse, “I won’t believe unless You show me You exist.”  Of course, scripture teaches us not to put God, the all-perfect, all-loving being to the test.  He will do what is best for us if we let him, and demanding signs is not usually the best way of going about it.

Rather than going this route, our priest took a different approach.  He noted that the temptation on face seems sort of silly:  why would throwing yourself off a building be a temptation for most people?  Food, power (the subjects of the other two temptations), sure, but plunging to almost certain death?  Not so much.  Instead of the straightforward temptation to test God, what the devil was really offering was the chance to avoid the crucifixion.  If Jesus were to jump from the top of the temple in Jerusalem, and be carried by angels, the people would see and know that he was the Messiah without needing to go through the Passion.  The devil, as always, was offering the seemingly easy way out–Jesus gets to be the Messiah without dying.  However, without the Passion and death, there is no remission of sins.  Without the resurrection, Heaven remains sealed shut.  Jesus, of course, rejects this offer, and goes through with his work of salvation of souls.

I had never thought of it this way.  For one, I hadn’t thought that the people of Jerusalem could have seen Jesus and the devil in dialogue, that they were somehow shielded from sight.  Second, the straightforward reading is, well, straightforward and still worth thinking about though that lens.  This reading, on the other hand, it quite a bit richer in meaning, and encourages us to embrace fully Jesus’ suffering because without it, we cannot be saved.  If Jesus gave Himself fully for our sake, all we can do is give ourselves back fully to God, trusting that he, in His infinite, incomprehensible love, will take care of us, and yes, send His angels to minister to us even, or especially, when things are hard–even if we don’t recognize God’s aid at the time.

 

Forty Octopus Legs

Yakum and Ikinji’s school is putting on Disney’s Little Mermaid Jr. (I think I got all the required parts in that title…) for their annual musical.  Both Yakum and Ikinji decided to participate this year.  Of course, this requires parental volunteers to pitch in and do various things, like chaperone at rehearsals, and make sets, props, and costumes.  I volunteered to help out with costumes, and selected the octopus costumes.

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38, 39, 40.

The woman in charge of costumes had printed several ideas from Pinterest, and the one that was built on a hoodie seemed the easiest.  In essence, eight legs hanging from the bottom of the hoodie, with eyes attached to the hood.  Simple!  Well…until I got creative and saw the Instructable DIY Octopus Costume that gets you curly legs.  Bingo!  Curly legs attached to the hoodie should look great in the big “Under the Sea” production number, and make for an easy costume change.DSC06810

So, not actually all that hard.  Just tedious.  Everyone got in on stuffing the legs (it was a great rainy afternoon activity), but five costumes times eight legs is a lot of legs to sew, stuff, and attach.  The fiddliest part was adding the strip of silver fabric (a polyester lining that was on sale at JoAnn’s) at the bottom hem of the hoodie to cover up where the legs all attached.  Attaching a woven to a knit is a challenge at

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the best of times, let alone when you’re trying to insert eight stuffed legs on top of it.

The eyes are just felt, with the black pupil hot glued on, then sewn on the hood with a little stuffing to make them bulge some.  This was the easiest part.

So, forty legs later, and the pod of octopi is done.

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A little creepy when they’re all together like this.

Since Ash Wednesday is coming up, I’m sure there’s a hymn parody in there somewhere, but the best I was able to come up with is “These forty legs of octopi/Finally are done!/For kids to dance and sing and play/In this year’s musical”