Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Cardinals Edition

1.  Homeschooling started this week!  Our first week has gone pretty well, we've mostly just focused on the basics...reading, math, getting our schedule up and running.  There was a glitch in a delivery so our history books aren't here yet but other than that things seem to be going pretty smoothly.

2.  The house seems to be entirely a different matter.  I usually like to start our homeschooling year with a decluttered home but so far that hasn't happened.  Since Fridays tend to be light days around here we will probably spend extra time trying to get the house pulled together before the weekend.

3.  Speaking of pulling the house together we need to pull the clothes closets together too.  We're in the dreaded process of switching the seasons around and trying to figure out if we have enough winter clothes for all the kids or if we need to do some shopping.  The grandparents keep asking if we have clothes for this child or that child, and honestly, I have no idea...but I don't really sound like a good, organized mom when I say stuff like that!  My thinking is, if they are already trying to buy ahead for Christmas then they are way more organized than I am at this point.

Toddler Boy ready for the game!!
Looking stylish in his Cards jersey

4.  Doug & I spent Thursday afternoon at the Cardinals game with Firstborn, Soccer Boy and Toddler Boy (the other kids went to grandma's since we only had four tickets).  It was a great game and the seats were awesome (and by awesome, I mean they were in the shade so we didn't pass out from heat exhaustion).  I was feeling a bit spoiled because they were club seats (the tickets were a gift from one of Doug's business associates).  Toddler Boy and I took full advantage of the air conditioned concession area a couple of times when he became too antsy and needed to walk around a bit.  He absolutely loves being outside and enjoyed the game immensely.  He would always cheer with the crowd whenever the Cards made a great play.  A Cardinal fan in the making!

5.  Had to mention that the tickets showed "World Class Champions vs. Astros"  Milking that World Series title for everything she's worth!  Seriously, it was a great game, we fell behind but started a rally with a three run homer (thank you Mr. Freese).  Holliday had a three run double too.  The final score was a 13-5 Cards win.  A fun day at the ballpark.  The older gentleman who sat in front of us asked the boys how they got out of school to go to a ballgame.  They answered "our teacher let us", and he jokingly replied "your teacher let you play hooky from school?!"  I answered "yes, because I'm their teacher and I'm playing hooky too!"  Ah, the joys of homeschooling...when someone gifts you with free tickets to an afternoon baseball game during the school year you can take advantage of it.

6.  This weekend looks to be a busy one for us, with soccer games, birthday parties and a day at the waterpark planned.  Officially, I hate weekends like this.  All of these activities are good and fun but they really take a toll on the family when we're in and out and running here and there the entire two days.  There's no down time built into it.  Sadly, none of these activities can be rescheduled so I'm praying Doug and I can hold it together and not spontaneously combust before the end of it.  It appears this week I may actually be looking forward to Monday morning!!

7.  I've run out of quick takes so I'm off to get my day started and clean my house, have a good weekend!!

That's all for this week, go check out more 7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Rosary

This is one question I always get from my Protestant you pray to Mary?!  And the short answer is yes, I do, and I believe Jesus blesses me for it!  The communion of saints is a wonderful truth that deserves a whole post to itself.  In this post I want to focus on the easiest and first way I started praying with Mary, and that is her Rosary.

I began praying the Rosary long before I ever stepped foot for Mass in a Catholic Church.  The first time I ever saw a Rosary was the one my roommate had in college.  She was raised Catholic but had converted to Protestantism but kept the Rosary because it had belonged to her grandmother.  When I questioned her about it she quickly explained the prayers to me in one of the fastest "Hail Marys" I ever heard and then talked about how she now just considered it "vain repetition" and she no longer prayed it.  At the time I agreed with her, wondering why Catholics would pray that way when the bible specifically forbids prayers using "vain repetition".

Many prayers can be lumped into the "vain repetition" category.  In Jesus' day, the Jews would pray by reading out loud and meditating on the Psalms.  I often wondered how the apostles (along with Mary) were praying for days waiting for the "power" Jesus had promised when He was taken up to Heaven (Acts 1:14).  Do you know how hard it would be to pray constantly for an unspecified time if you didn't use some sort of prayer guidance for your meditating?  They were more than likely praying the Psalms, like they had been taught as Jewish children.  Jesus himself was praying the Psalms even while he hung from the Cross, He was quoting the Psalms in His most difficult hours of His earthly life!  Sometimes when we are in our most desperate hour it is all we can do to repeat over and over, "Jesus, help me" or "Jesus, I love you" as our only prayer.  He will not criticize us at that time, saying we're just using vain repetition.  No, He knows this is all we can offer and He takes that offering and turns it into something wonderful.

The Rosary is a contemplative prayer.  When Catholics pray the Rosary they are not focusing on the actual words they are speaking, they are meditating on one of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary.  The mysteries are broken down into 4 groups, the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous mysteries.  Each group holds 5 mysteries and lay Catholics typically pray a certain group on a certain day (consecrated religious might pray all the mysteries in one day).  The mysteries are things like "The Nativity" or "The Transfiguration" or "The Crucifixion".  They are like looking through a photo album of Christ's life with His mother, Mary.  I haven't been praying the Rosary nearly long enough to give a good description of how it is done.  Luckily, there are great websites out there who do a much better job!  I particularly like The Rosary Center's website because it has pictures and 10 points included with each mystery to go with the 10 Hail Mary's.  It really helped me get into the meditative aspect of the prayer.  I found that meditating is a discipline, training your mind to focus on one thing and not get distracted was not easy for me at first.  It is a wonderful discipline to develop and it comes in handy at other times when I need to focus on good thoughts instead of bad ones.  It also helps me to not multitask as much and be more present in the everyday moments of my life.  It is so easy in today's technology ready world to multitask so much that we're not really focusing on the things that matter, we're not paying enough time and attention to the task at hand.  As a mother (and I know you moms out there get this) changing a diaper, cleaning, laundry, doing dishes...they can all become so repetitive and boring.  Focusing my thoughts and being present in my tasks can make the mundane into a holy offering to Jesus.

When I started researching Catholicism and their views on Mary, the Rosary kept coming up.  It seems to have been very highly regarded in the Church for centuries and many people more saintly than I have vouched for it's help in their prayer life.  What gave me the incentive to actually try it for myself was Scott and Kimberly Hahn's book Rome Sweet Home.  In it, Scott talked about how he started to say the prayer strictly out of obedience but how it changed his life.  After reading his testimony I knew I had to at least try to pray a Rosary and see what happens.  I was a "closet" researching Catholic at the time and really didn't know any Catholics who could lend me a Rosary so I went down to the local Catholic bookstore and was delighted to find a cheap $1 Rosary (I wasn't about to spend a lot of money on something that I might use only once)!  Plus, I felt like I was sneaking in and out of the place and making off with contraband!  I didn't want to be caught dead with a Rosary by my Protestant friends and family.  I didn't even know what to do with it, but thankfully the internet offers tons of helpful instruction.  Before I started I prayed, "Lord, I'm just trying to follow Your will and leading and if I'm way off course and this is offensive to you then please forgive me and let me know.  But if this is where You're leading, please show me."  It was probably the hardest Rosary I have ever prayed and it was incredibly awkward because I didn't know the words to the "Hail Mary" so I had to basically read all of them.  In fact, it took about a week's worth of Rosaries before I had the words down well enough that I could start to (kind of) meditate on the mysteries.  Before that I had to focus too much on what I was actually saying.  Plus, I didn't know the mysteries so I had to keep looking that up too.  However, I couldn't deny the peace that I felt after finishing a Rosary.  If you're doing it right it should take about 20 min. to complete 5 decades.  Jesus seemed to be pouring tons of graces on me every time I prayed a Rosary, so I could know in my heart, without a doubt, that He was blessing this endeavor.  The very first thing I noticed was that it helped me control my tongue.  I thought of the bible verse in James...
"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."  (James 3: 9-12)
There is power in the words we speak.  God actually created the world by speaking it into existence and we are made in His image.
"The tougue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4)
The action of physically speaking the good words of the Rosary (which contain direct quotes from the bible) helped me to catch myself when I wanted to speak harshly to one of my kids when they disobeyed.  Instead, I would choose to speak in a soft voice...
 "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1)
I started practicing the discipline of actually speaking softer the angrier I became as a way to diffuse my frustrations.*  I started cringing when I would hear yelling, it started to grate on me like hearing someone rake their nails down a chalkboard.  We live in a bi-level, so it was common for our family to yell up and down the stairs to each other.  Instead, I started asking my children to please come up or down to speak to me if you needed something (and I started setting the example by doing the same).  This is just one example, I have many more of how powerful focusing and contemplating on one event in Jesus' life can bring clarity and peace to my life.  I was falling in love with Jesus all over again!

Ultimately, I have to admit that if the Rosary is some scheme from Satan to keep our focus off of Jesus then it is backfiring on him, big time.  Praying the Rosary not only helps me meditate on Jesus more but it actually changes me too.  When I pray it regularly I'm a more patient and peaceful other words, more like Christ!

*  I have to give credit to Michelle Duggar for first suggesting this method of handling anger, in her book The Duggars: 20 and Counting!.  She gives credit to God and the bible for giving her spiritual insight on this matter. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes - End of Summer!

Sadly, our summertime is coming to an end and the new school year approaches.  I thought I'd do a quick takes on what our family has been doing for the past three months...

1.  Of course, there was Church Camp.  The older two boys spent their second year at camp, this time they went separately because they are now in different age groups.  Firstborn got to do horseback riding and fishing at his camp...
Picture of lake at camp from last year
That's Dad with Princess, Game Boy and Soccer Boy
Firstborn enjoys swimming in the lake!

2.  We met with my mom's bible study group at different area parks on Tuesday mornings.  By far the kids favorite was the new splashpad in O'Fallon.  Sadly, I never took my camera with me to take pictures of the kids actually playing at the park there.  Here's some other park pics...
Toddler Boy loves swinging!

A swing that can swing two at once!

3.  Swimming with same bible study group on Thursday afternoons.  We've been doing this the past few years, it's fun to just let the kids hang out with their friends they don't get to see during the school year (because they all attend different schools and we don't all attend the same church).  These pics are from last year because, once again, I didn't bring my camera to the pool, sigh...
Brother and sister togetherness!
Eating a snack...swimming makes you hungry!!

Firstborn & Soccer Boy swimming with friends

4.  Our family spent most evenings at the tennis and swim club near our home, which we joined at the end of the summer last year.  Since it was super hot this summer the water stayed really warm most of the time.  I guess most people swim there during the day because the pool could be pretty vacant at night.  Soccer Boy finally perfected his front flip off the diving board.  Finally, some current photos!!
Game Boy was learning to swim this year
Toddler Boy looked too cute in his big swimsuit
Soccer Boy working on his future Olympic diving career
(Sorry pic is so dark...I told you we went swimming at night)!

5.  What would summertime be without horseback riding, fishing and archery at grandma's?  The older two each spent one week with grandma and grandpa (usually while the other was at camp).  That meant the three youngest had more mom & dad time.  We also spent lots of Sunday afternoons at my parent's house.  The kids got to fish there also, plus bounce on their trampoline and go on "mule" rides...
Soccer Boy riding bareback with Dad & Grandpa
Fishing (yes, there is a lake you just can't see it in this pic)
Soccer Boy, Princess & their cousin on grandma's "mule"
That's great grandma's house in background

6.  Of course there's the family summer movie series at Wehrenberg Theatres on Thursdays.  They do free movies at 10:00am (obviously they make their money back on the popcorn sales)!  I could bring bottled water with me and buy a refillable bucket of popcorn for $8.  Then I'd just hand out plastic drink cups and the kids would fill their cups with popcorn and I'd send the olders out for refills when needed.  We were usually watching movies we have already seen, but still a fun outing.  Who can beat popcorn and a movie on the big screen for 6 people for $8??  Here's the movies we saw this year:

  1. Kung Fu Panda 2
  2. Zookeeper (Princess and Toddler Boy had problems sitting thru that one, we walked instead)
  3. Puss in Boots
  4. Alvin & the Chipmunks:  Chipwrecked
We really, really wanted to see Rio but unfortunately it played the same day we were going to...

7.  SIX FLAGS...this is where we went this week.  We left Toddler Boy with grandma because it was going to be a long day in the sun and there's not much he can ride.  Thanks goodness the three boys (plus teacher mom) earned free tickets from their reading program or this trip would have costs us an arm and a leg.  The two oldest are now able to ride most (if not all) of the rollarcoasters.  We also brought along my niece because she had a ticket too.  Sorry, no pics because I didn't want to get the camera wet!  It was better this year than previous years, not nearly so hot (we've been before when the temps reached 101)!  Doug & I used to go there every year as teenagers when we were dating.  We've only been there a handful of times since we've gotten married.  However, we both remember when roller coasters stopped being "fun" for us.  It was when we left our 3 month old Firstborn with mom and went to spend the day there with some family and friends.  They had just opened the waterpark and everyone was excited to try it out.  We also road on the newest roller coaster "Mr. Freeze" (yes, this totally dates us, I know)!  When standing in line for the roller coaster Doug & I were both just nervous about riding it...and we've road tons of them together in the past.  We just didn't enjoy it like before, and we decided the reason was we had too much to live for now.  It just felt too much like taking an unnecessary risk with our lives, and what would Firstborn do without both his parent's?  My boys have no issues with riding them, and it felt sort of like a right of passage when Firstborn and Soccer Boy road Mr. Freeze for the first time yesterday.  Lots of great memories!!

That's all for this week, go check out more 7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Infant Baptism

Picture of Firstborn after his baptism last year

Such a controversial topic so I wanted to do a post and get it out of the way early.  Catholics consider baptism as one of the seven sacraments of the Church.  A sacrament is defined as "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace".  There is grace imparted at the time of baptism, regardless of whether or not the adult, child or infant receiving the sacrament is aware of it or not.  I have always believed in the practice of baptizing infants.  At the time my oldest two children were born my husband and I were practicing Presbyterians (who also recognize infant baptism).  So they were both sacramentally baptized as young babies.  My husband was also baptized as a baby but because my father and his family were Southern Baptist I was not.  I received baptism when I joined the Presbyterian Church as a 13 year old youth on Easter Sunday.
Firstborn's baptism, Father's Day June 18, 2000
Our young family!!
This was all very fine and good until Doug & I decided to leave the Presbyterian Church and attend a large, pastor led, non-denominational, charismatic church.  They tend more towards the Baptist denominational view on baptism, except it is performed more as an act of obedience to Christ.  Whereas a Baptist would view baptism as necessary for the salvation of the soul, the charismatic would see it as a step in their relationship with Christ.  They also might become "re-baptized" if they ever felt like they fell away (also called backsliding) from Christ or the church.  It then becomes a symbol for their renewed commitment to Jesus Christ.  When our third son was born we were attending this type of church, so instead we held a dedication ceremony for him during the one of the services.  We have lovely pictures, but for me it wasn't quite the same as performing a baptism.
Toddler Boy at his church dedication this year
So handsome!!
By the time Princess was born we were attending yet another church, a Christian Church.  The Christian Church has been around since the early 1800s and has the Presbyterian Church for it's origins.  They are congregationally led and by nature do not answer to a denomination but they do work together with other Christian churches.  They hold to the view of baptism at the age of reason by immersion.  In fact, they do not accept baptisms that were not by immersion.  I was surprised when reading an application to be a camp counselor that one of the questions was "Have you been immersion baptized"?  It was a yes or no fill in the blank, so for that question I would have had to answer "no" to whether or not I was baptized, which seemed wrong to me.

Many people think that the Catholic Church believes that baptism is necessary for the salvation of the soul.  This is not actually the case, they do hold that it is the only way that God has granted the Church to impart the washing away of original sin and becoming an adopted child of God.  This does not limit God, who can choose to give any soul salvation apart from whether or not they were baptized while still alive.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it this way:
"God has bound salvation to the sacrament of baptism, but He Himself is not bound by the sacraments"  (CCC, no. 1257)  
This is where the controversy on miscarried or aborted children, who died before they were able to be baptized, comes into play.  What about the infant or adult who died in a car accident on the way to the Church to be baptized?  What about the person earnestly seeking God in his life but is not aware of his need for this sacrament?  In cases like this we need to have faith in the abundant mercy and love of God, who created and loves those individuals more than we ourselves can fathom.  Recently, I came across a book written about the experience of Marietta Davis, who in 1848 received a vision from God and was shown heaven and hell.  It is titled Nine Days in Heaven.  She gives a very detailed acccount of what happens to the souls of children and babies when they die.  For me, it was an incredibly comforting read because I have lost children to miscarriage.

Baptism has the effect of forgiving and washing away all sins, both the original sin that everyone is born with plus all the personal sins that someone commits up until that point in his or her life.  It marks or "brands" the person as belonging to Christ.  As such, it remains permanent.
"Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ.  Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ.  No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.  Given once for all Baptism cannot be repeated"  (CCC, no. 1272)

At this point your question for me may be "what about your own children"?  Good question!  I wrote this post, in part, to possibly give comfort and guidance to people in my situation.  My husband is a Christ following Protestant, and our family currently attends a church that does not believe in infant baptism.  I am Catholic, and although I believe in infant baptism the Church cannot baptized my children because my husband cannot in good conscience vow to raise them in the Catholic faith.  When the Catholic Church baptizes an infant or child before the age of reason it requires the parents of the child to promise to raise them in the Catholic faith (as opposed to "christian faith").  The Church does, however, accept baptisms from other Christian faiths who hold to the Trinitarian baptismal formula and either pour or immerse with water.  So where does that leave us?  With three young children who are being raised as christians who cannot receive the sacrament of baptism from either church they attend.  There was a third option, and that was to baptize them myself.
"The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon.  In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using water and the Trinitarian baptismal formula.  The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes.  The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation."  (CCC, no. 1256)
In the case of my youngest three children I chose to baptize them myself.  I used to waver back and forth on the reasons I did this, was it the right thing to do or was I overstepping my authority as their mother.  Should I have had more faith and waited until they could make the decision for themselves?  Maybe, but my feelings on the matter is baptism is a very important sacrament, it is my Catholic faith's way of washing their sins away and presenting them for adoption into God's family.  What mother would not want that for her children?  Plus, I believe very strongly in the sacramental graces that come with baptism.  A sacrament is not just a symbol, God attaches graces to it.  Those graces flow through the physical action of baptizing your child and continue to be a source of strength for them throughout their lives, whether they are aware of it or not, whether they are actively working with that grace or not, God is faithful.  I heard Jen from Conversion Diary explain it well when she was interviewed for The Journey Home program (here's the link to the program).  She said her baptism acted like an invisible cord, anchoring her and always drawing her back towards the truth of christianity.  Even when she was a devout atheist God was using the grace she received at her baptism (which she was not even aware of until after she became Catholic).  As a mom, I want to give my children the "anchoring" grace that baptism can be in their lives.  I do not know if they will ever struggle in their faith but if that day comes I want them to have all the advantages possible to help them in their doubts.  No, baptism does not guarantee their salvation, only a relationship with Jesus Christ can give them eternal life with Him.  But it definitely will be a wonderful avenue of grace in their lives.  A win-win in my opinion.

Family pic from Firstborn's baptism
Dad was holding camera!
I wanted to briefly mention the issue of "re-baptism".  My oldest was "re-baptized" last summer at church camp.  Since it was an immersion baptism and he's at the age of reason my husband's faith believes that this would be his actual baptism.  They would consider the one he went through as an infant as a "dedication".  My Catholic belief is the opposite, that he actually received baptism as an infant and the second one was more of a symbol of his dedication to Jesus and living a christian life.  I am careful to explain both sides to them.  My children are aware of my views and also my husband's views on this issue.  My children's faith journeys are theirs to make and as they grow older I want them to grow a deeper relationship with Christ and choose that for themselves.  I fully supported my son's decision to choose immersion baptism.  In the grand scheme of things this choice is not jepordizing his soul, on the contrary, this is a move for him in the direction of God and that is a great thing.  I have some issues with it doctrinally, but again, this is his journey, not mine.  I am very happy that he has personally chosen to follow Christ and it is my hope and prayer that my other children will eventually make the same commitment.

One last thing (as if this post wasn't long enough)!  The bible gives an example of christians who received the Holy Spirit from God before they were baptized (Acts 10:48 ).  This would be a prime example of how God is not bound by His sacraments.  This played out in my own life because I also asked for and received the Holy Spirit years before I received my baptism.  Baptism is an avenue of grace but it is not the only avenue of grace.  God will use any path you open up to Him to build a relationship with you.  Again, it is my relationship with Christ that is my assurance of salvation, not my baptism.  Jesus obviously holds baptism as very important because He Himself was baptized to set an example for us and He commanded His apostles (His Church) to continue to baptize believers.
  "...I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit"  (John 3:5)
  I hold baptism in such high esteem precisely because of the Word of Christ.  So important that I decided to grant it to my infant children.

Friday, August 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes - New Van Edition

1.  Our old 1998 honda odyssey finally ran it's last mile last weekend.  So we spent all of last week shopping for a good deal on a newer van.  Behold, our new ride:

2010 Toyota Sienna

2.  We bought it last Friday (hence, no 7 Quick Takes last week).  Doug & I were busy driving to Peoria to pick it up.  We took the three youngest with us while the older ones stayed with Grandma Joanie.  They had an awesome time at Grandma's, swimming, archery...every boy's dream weekend!

3.  Doug's brother and family live in Peoria so after we got the van I decided to head over to their house because Princess was desperate to play with some of her cousins.  We ended up spending the night and made the drive back home the next morning.  It was a nice playdate for the youngers and a nice break for me to visit with my BIL & SIL...thanks for hosting us guys!!

4.  Speaking of cousins, my sister's son has been here all this week and will be here next week too.  He's the same age as Princess and loves spending time playing with the boys.  There were a few arguments in the beginning while they were working out a "pecking order" but that seems to have calmed down.

We just don't get 2" hail around here.
Some of it is still in my freezer!
5.  I've been reading other posts on-line like Jen's about being too busy and it comforts me to know that I'm not the only mom out there who's summer has just gone off the rails.  It seems I was very "busy" this summer with things that needed to get done but nothing that I had actually "planned" to do back at the end of May.  So now I look at the calendar and I have three months worth of summer plans to fit into three weeks! There were endless visits by cable install guys (my calendar shows four different dates including one no show and you have to block off a 4 hour window for each one).  Then there were the multiple inspections for our roof and cars due to the massive hail storm we had this summer.  We had furniture and computer repairs, which also required multiple visits.  Add to that last week's unexpected van shopping and drive to pick up the vehicle.  Plus all the phone calls to make all of this happen!  Whew, I'm tired just typing all that!

6.  I'll be ordering next year's curriculum this weekend.  Yes, this is one of those things I had totally planned on getting done months ago that I am now realizing needs to be done NOW if we're going to start our school year on time.  We're switching our math curriculum to Teaching Textbooks for the older boys so I'm excited to see how that turns out.  Since we got our regular computer fixed (see last 7QT) I can now use our backup computer for the classroom.  I have plans to move it downstairs to our dining room where most of our homeschooling takes place.  What, you don't have a kitchen and dining room in your basement?  We live in a bi-level house, so I guess basement is sort of a stretch but yes, that is the heart of our home.  I'm itching to get it changed around and organized for our next school year.  Maybe I'll post pics?

7.  I just want to thank God for the busyness of the past few months.  In my own plans I would not have chosen to do it this way, but His ways are better.  I realize I could have gone through all the repair jobs and inspection visits during our school year, which would have been a disaster.  So I'm thankful that all of this took place in the summer when I have more time to deal with it.  And I got a new van out of the process, which we've been needing for awhile.  I'm off to get breakfast going and my day started...have a nice weekend!!

Go check out more 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!!