Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wheels for the New Year

The twins have been looking at sporty makes and models for several months. I told them to consider trunk space and mileage estimates (which should be the top considerations for travel hockey players). Ever since they turned 15, they have agreed to share a car once they turn 16. Captain took them shopping at a few used car lots... and they eventually found the best deal through Craigslist: a 2006 Nissan Maxima.

(Definitely no room left on the driveway now.) They've already replaced a headlight bulb and started rotating the tires! *motor head Schmids*

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheering for the 'Cats

What could better than going to Buffalo Wild Wings in the hometown of Bill Snyder on the night that K-State is playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl?!  My boys waited over an hour to be seated (luckily they went early) and could only get the waitress to put the college football game on one, tiny screen? I guess "the fight" is more popular with the average folks in NW Missouri (several people in purple left to go somewhere else). My patriotic family stuck it out to the victorious end waking us after midnight with game highlights. Dorito said he didn't see his fraternity brothers (two are in the Marching Band), nor his friends or relatives who attended the game in Phoenix. But he still had fun! I was fine to stay home and nurse Captain through his extraction of two more wisdom teeth, and we both fell asleep early.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Can you say Handsome?

I practically stole the purple cashmere scarf for Dorito from Kohls. It is a perfect gift for a Wildcat student. And the three dress coats were affordable gifts since I waited for 30% off coupon in the mail.
I made some Pinterest-style gifts....
desk plaques for the "frat boy" and his pledge dad,
Meggar made this blanket for Dorito,

and desk plaques for my hockey stars.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Christmas Letter After All

I told my book club this fall that God is actually the best writer of irony. And our family's lives in 2013 were surely evidence of that.
Captain was laid off 79 days ago (but who's counting) from his job of 17 years. And he couldn't be happier! (I had been praying for him a long time, so perhaps it's not ironic....) We are treasuring the time together--realizing that Captain has been gone enough overnights to equal about 10 years. We are dreaming about future jobs--ones that include intelligent diversity and professionalism (such as set vacations). We are living on our savings--given that we have not inherited money from our parents nor mooched off the government. (Neither are we signing up for the "Affordable" Care Act of Obama.) 
Fortunately, Captain was able to spend 23 days in December training for a newer/bigger jet called the Global Express (sounds like a Christmas movie...) I'm proud to report he scored a 97% and even found an error on the final exam (much to the surprise of Flight Safety staff). 
Other family members also did well on their final exams: Dorito will be initiated at Phi Kappa Theta at K-State since he managed to pull good enough grades (even with Calculus I), and Meggar is on the honor roll with only one semester left until graduation. She will be taking her Piano degree with English minor to St. Louis after May and hopefully landing a job in event/wedding planning. She has plans to room with Lois, who has been given use of her Grandma's house. They have become wine aficionados after traveling with Captain and I to Napa Valley shortly after Meggar's 21st birthday. She graciously attended several hockey games for her little brothers and was the Christian DJ for their Prom. She even introduced us to Spencer's parents following a St. Louis Blues game last spring.
Dorito's adventures as a Wildcat would fill several pages, but suffice it to say we all enjoy hearing his stories of 5K runs, flag football, Ultimate Frisbee, Homecoming float-building, sorority serenades, and building a motorized bicycle for M.E. He wears a purple shirt nearly every day. He finished his high school career winning top student in Robotics at Hillyard, chosen by mayor as Young Artist of the Year, and saving the lives of 10 boys at the pool while on Scout staff for seven weeks at Camp Geiger. 
The twins are having their own adventures in Music City. They are renting a house with their homeschool teacher while playing for Thunder AAA Hockey (U16 team). Their driver's permits have come in handy while getting from Nashville to tournaments in Boston, Detroit, Philly, and Pittsburgh. It was memorable to stay a week with our cousins in Connecticut, whose house is on the beach. Even in October, it was a treat to get sand between your toes, see tall ships, and feast on clam chowder. Using their one weekend off per month, Polar Bear and Winger squeezed in Mic-o-Say dances and a hunting trip with Father Benjamin. Winger bagged two does and everyone has enjoyed venison chili, tacos, and meatloaf. Last spring, the twins were confirmed at the Cathedral and invited Bishop Finn to dinner at our home. This spring, they are becoming tight with Jimmy's HAWC group and can't wait for the Bosco Ball games discipleschip talks.
I try to capture teachable moments on our hockey trips, but the trip to Atlanta for a practice weekend included a purely selfish stop-off at the High Museum of Art to view Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring." (pleasure sigh!) 
Once my book club finished "The Brothers Karamazov," we also read a few books at the other end of the spectrum. I loved how Dostoyevsky was brilliant in his subtlety and his paradoxes make a constructive use of irony. So I'm sure the same will be true for our family--and the future will bring many happy twists and turns that even Sherlock Holmes could not anticipate.
Merry Christmas to all our friends and family, and may Peace be in your hearts this New Year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

O Holy Innocents

Today's Feast Day always touches my heart.
Probably because I lost three babies through miscarriage and stillbirth. It is the Church's memorial of the Holy Innocents, all the babies under age 2 whom Herod ordered slaughtered in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. Herod was angry. He was jealous. He didn't want another king to be born. (Matthew 2:13-18)
God wrote our salvation history with beautiful irony. That a powerless baby would be our Redeemer, who conquered sin. That a virgin would bear a Son, who was both God and Man. That a Jewish Messiah would be Rex Gentium: Ruler of all Nations. That his death would grant us everlasting life. Let the modern world come and worship, making no mistake about the message that this Emmanuel was born into a husband-and-wife family.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

There Are Still 11 Days Left of Christmas

Hooray! The 12 Days of Christmas mean there is still time for more good food... more movies... more games... more laughs...
Yesterday, we celebrated with eggnog waffles, watched "Elf," played BananaGrams, and laughed about strange guys who asked for Meggar's phone number. Today, we ate baked Brie and summer sausage with the Bridgewaters, watched "Fast & Furious," played Words with Friends since the bowling alley was closed, and laughed about professors who threw in trivia-type questions on final exams.
Actually, my two in college posted great grades! Meggar got an A in Chemistry (that's a Christmas miracle), and an A in her Senior Brit Lit (pretty tough), and a B in Trigonometry (she hates math and science).  Dorito is thrilled that he stayed above 2.5--he got two As, one B, and two Cs this semester. He now qualifies for initiation at the fraternity! He was so dedicated to going to the tutor working hard to get a C in his Calculus I class after starting with very bad grades on his first two exams for that course.
Still to come: chocolate fondue, skillet cookies, ham-and-bean soup, venison chili, cinnamon rolls, reruns of "White Collar" on NetFlix, favorite episodes on BBC, sledding, and car repairs (always a laugh).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

O Holy Night

 Prelude carols were played by Fiddlers Three.
 The altar is gloriously decorated.
 The manger scene sparkles during mass.
 Everyone is happy to be together!
 Purple for Advent.
 Christmas Couple.
Schmidling Siblings.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve in the Morning

Since we all arrived home very late, today was for sleeping in. Even Captain is back home (after successfully completing his check-ride in Delaware). Our brunch was a delightful reunion gathered around Peet's Coffee and my gingerbread muffins (from American Girl cookbook).
Victorian Gingerbread Cake
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. buttermilk
1-1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground cloves
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
*Beat egg with sugar with wire whisk.
*Add butter, molasses, and buttermilk and stir.
*Combine dry ingredients separately.
*Stir altogether into the bowl.
*Bake in a greased 9-inch-round pan or muffin tin at 350" F for 20-30 minutes.
*Sprinkle with powdered sugar

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Warm Willkommen Weekend

Thursday, Meggar and Dorito were fetched from Kansas City today so they could be "home for the holidays." We celebrated with a little shopping (though it's harder to keep surprises now). And at home we started nibbling on the first two batches of cookies: mint chocolate chip (which Polar Bear made in honor of them being a favorite of his sister), and no-bake oatmeal cookies (which Winger made in anticipation of Captain being home soon).
Friday, we drove to Denver. This is the new Christmas hockey tradition of our family: we went straight to the Harrow Sports warehouse and bought four more sticks for the twins to use right away (they threw in two free lanyards that certain young men might find in their stocking as key chains), we had warm coffee and cocoa at the hotel instead of the Denver Tearoom (but were grateful that the Marriott reward points have stretched this long); and we admired the snow-capped mountains (though we aren't able to afford snowboarding this year).
Saturday, Coach Ron took the twins on a tour of the Air Force Academy (an excellent hockey facility) with his former player/asst. coach. I took the older two siblings to the Park Meadows Mall for a bit of shopping, but the parking was an unbelievable battle--seriously I circled the parking lots and 2-story parking garage for 30 minutes and never found even one space.
Sunday, we went to mass (though when we are out-of-town it is an adventure not knowing what strange aspects might be encountered).
The U16 team wore their new jerseys to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the TPH Hockey Association. Formed as a joint venture into Tier 1 Elite for the players in the Southwest, the Thunder combines players from Nashville and Atlanta. These rugby-striped jerseys were a "Christmas present" paid for by the goalie's dad. (Winger is at the face-off.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Serious Holidays

Poor Polar Bear--he had his hockey stick stolen at the rink last week. During off-ice training, all the players leave their bags and sticks sitting outside the locker room. The stupid thing for the thief is that only my twins play with that brand of stick so it's going to be noticeable. I hope we find it...
Meanwhile, I had another garden flag stolen this week. Ugh! Two in the spring, and now another? I kept this one up by the front sidewalk instead of at the street level by our mailbox, but I guess people who prank are brave.
Even worse, someone came up to the front bushes and turned on the garden hose! I heard water running, but it was bedtime and I thought Polar Bear had started a bath upstairs. When it ran "too long," I marched upstairs to give him a piece of my mind. No one in the tub. No one in the shower. No one doing laundry. I checked to see if basement toilet was running. Called Captin who helped me discover that the front hose was on. UGH! We turned it off and removed the spigot handle. A friend of the twins said it was a common prank this week by local teens.
Lastly, Meggar called and said the police came to Spencer's home at 4 a.m. since they found the man who had broken into his car and stolen his checkbook in the night. He was caught while trying to use it for a purchase.
This is the wrong week for more "bad news."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homemade Christmas Gifts

My friends know I traditionally make lots of homemade cards and gifts. So I was thrilled with Cousin Melanie's gift at the Schmidling Christmas gathering last weekend! Fuzzy holiday sock full of dry beans for heating or freezing as a compress.
Winger was eager to try it--as he has a bruise on the heel of his hand from hockey. When he put it in the microwave to warm up, there were sparks immediately! That's when I noticed the pretty ribbon closure had a wire-tie inside. I simply tied a knot on the end instead. But I like Christmas presents that sparkle!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Using the Oxford Comma

I didn't know that it was called the Oxford Comma, but I've been in love with it since Dr. O's Editing II class for The Collegian. It is the second comma used in a series of three items. And it helps clarify writing. I require it for my middle school, high school, and college students (see there). So does the Associated Press (not that I write for newspapers anymore).
But two years ago, an ironic twist came when the University of Oxford PR Dept. changed its style guide to eliminate the Oxford Comma! Many opinionated Tweets ensued. Oxford itself kept the Oxford Comma.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gaudette Sunday

The third Sunday of Advent, and we are supposed to Rejoice that Christmas is coming so near.
I rejoiced in playing Advent hymns on the organ... The twins rejoiced in the missionary priest who gave the homily... But the underlying stress of an unemployed Dad is difficult for our whole family. We are limiting our Christmas shopping, but I tried to make up for that with joyfilled time spent setting out decorations--an extra few days at home helped us squeeze in some more family traditions. We hung the stockings, set up the Nativity scenes, and strung lights on the tree. We are waiting for the Christ Child... and for the Lord to show us the way. While I talk to Captain every day, I also field emotional phone calls from two college students and try to keep myself and the students at home buoyed up during their studies. Everything is (mostly) as it should be.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Win Some and Lose Some

The twins played hockey this weekend with the U16 National Team, and helped win one and lose one game. It was easy to return to the Independence Events Center for the games (our old rink). It was fun to play against five former teammates (even on face-offs). It was nice for me to catch up with the other travel parents (between periods).
The boys enjoyed the team bus, buffet dinner at Golden Corral, and free tour of the Topeka Roadrunners rink before their NAHL game.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Getting Through Exams

Half our family was taking a final exam yesterday, and the other half was reviewing for one.
Captain took his final book exam on the Global Express. It lasted four hours! He scored 97/100, allowing that he didn't know one question for certain, he made a bone-head calculation on the wrong chart for a second question, and the third one marked wrong was actually correct. Captain convinced the Flight Safety examiner that he was right, and now they will have to change their grading and study sheet to reflect their own error!! (kinda cool.) We are proud of the intense studying he has done these past two weeks. Here is his stack of the manuals about the airplane.
Next, Meggar had a Voice Jury today and aced it with her French song: "If You Wish, My Love" (Si Vous le Souhaitez, Mon Amour). She is also writing a 10-page paper about why girls get married, not the fairytale girls, but those like Charlotte Lucas who actually wanted to marry Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. In between finals, she travels house-to-house and dorm-to-dorm buying back books for her part-time job.
Dorito has done his papers really EARLY. Last week, he had already finished his 4th paper for History, and his 3rd paper for Leadership Studies, and his 2nd paper for University Experience. They weren't even due until THIS week. What a good kid! (I am the freelance proofreader in the family.) We are so impressed how hard Dorito is working at university. He had a final today in Mechanical Engineering class. (Seems like a ton of work and money for a 1-credit course.) And their final project was completed in the afternoon--with racing their bicycles against the other 45 teams. The power had to come from a portable drill, and Dorito said the problem was getting enough torque.

Meanwhile, the twins and I reviewed Julius Caesar for a Literature 10 final tomorrow. And we started reading Dialogues of Plato for the car-ride home.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homemade Christmas Gifts

I've made aprons a couple of times: for moms and little girls. But this was my first time to make them out of old jeans. I used a non-hand-me-down pair from Dorito. I was pleased with the results. And I think the two little guys we live with in Nashville will like them (ages 4 & 6). Along with a copy of "Boys Can Cook," of course, from my own library. Happy Holidays, Holmans!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

High School Basketball

The twins and I went to cheer for the homeschool basketball team in Nashville: the Warriors. Our friends Landon and Liam (senior and sophomore) did a great job during the varsity match. So did their dad (the coach)!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Powerful Words

There is so much power in words.
I see it every Sunday with Fr. Bala.
He memorizes the entire Gospel!
He "reads" it from the pulpit--
without the Lectionary.
If you have ever practiced a poem, you realize how much time is invested to do that. Every word has to be exact, even the smallest words. And sometimes the Gospel on Sunday is rather long.
But Father Bala does it perfectly week after week, and English is not his native language.
Maybe you already have the habit of Lectio Divina, which is picturing the story from the Bible in your imagination (maybe even with yourself in the scene). Entering the living word is an act that becomes an even greater experience when you hear the priest recite the Gospel from memory. An amazing depth is felt, with each syllable, through each sequence, until the end.

"John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judeaand saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:A voice of one crying out in the desert,Prepare the way of the Lord,make straight his paths."

Such a gift.
Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Never Too Old

I still gave each twin a chocolate Advent calendar.
And candy for St. Nicholas' Day.
Guess they are never too old...
They were "good sports" and played like "big brothers" on Saturday morning by going to the Preschool Christmas Program to watch Kobe sing with his 4-year-old class.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thoughts Before Christmas

I'm sitting between St. Nicholas Day (honoring one who gave anonymously) and the Feast of St. Ambrose (who converted St. Augustine), and I'm reaching out to ask friends for help. Some of you may know that my husband was laid off this fall. I am still hoping to write a Christmas message that tells about the miracle of Captain finding a new path of employment, but that hasn't happened yet. I am confident that God is trying to lead us to a better place. Meanwhile, we are extra thankful for all the good things we DO have, and to ask for your prayers for next year.
But this has also caused me to wonder more frequently about the poor. Ever since the election of Pope Francis, my thoughts have returned to his friend's last-minute, whispered plea: "Don't forget the poor." Already the Pope has shown us his modest lifestyle, and now his words of Evangelii Gaudium call us "to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others."
I know you already give to important and worthwhile causes and are careful with your money (especially in the midst of holiday shopping for your children and relatives). But if my request is taken to heart by half of the people that I send it to, then the Holy Spirit will have done its work effectively. Please consider making an anonymous donation to a man named Jorge, who is on the verge of homelessness right here in the Midwest.
I do not know Jorge personally, but I found out about him on a Catholic News site back in the late summer. He is unemployed and trying to raise his daughter alone. He is attending college on the GI Bill and receiving food stamps. He and his daughter will not starve to death, but he needs money for rent and utilities. He doesn't know where else to turn, so I'm turning to you.
It is easy to donate through PayPal to his account.
I hope you will help alleviate his fears and make a small sacrifice to help him get through the holidays. It is through God's initiative that I write to you. As Pope Francis recently wrote: "This mission demands great generosity on our part, it would be wrong to see it as a heroic individual undertaking, for it is first and foremost the Lord's work, surpassing anything which we can see and understand."
You can read more about Jorge and his situation on his own blog. Or simply join me and send a few bucks this Christmas as a present to AnnaMarie and Jorge.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Give Him the Glory

There are many ways to prepare for Christmas, and plenty of religious activities to attend during Advent.
Last night, we attended the GLORY night sponsored every month by "Love Good Music" and Jimmy Mitchell. There were some high school students there whom the twins knew from Fraternus, plus college kids and young adults. Good crowd. Everything started with praise music, then time for reflection, and a featured guest speaker: Brother Joseph from the Legionaries of Christ. He gave his vocation story and then sang some original compositions that were VERY hipster! Later, there was time for Adoration and Confession at the Church of the Assumption next door. Finally, the evening wrapped up with more music and coffee and conversation. No one wanted to leave!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Brotherly Love

The twins look up to Dorito and like to spend time with their older brother. It has been a hard adjustment having him off at college. They begged all year to attend a K-State football game, but there were hockey conflicts for all the home games. Luckily, they found some cheap tickets for the KU v KSU game in Lawrence (last week after Thanksgiving).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Face to Face with Competition

Captain discovered some bad news about the position in Philadelphia he had interviewed for last month. (We were still waiting to hear back from the head-hunter.) The company is no longer hiring a full-time pilot, instead they are letting three people who already have jobs share the work on a contract basis. His instructors at Flight Safety are the pilots who will be serving in that rotation!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Time is Running Out

Captain currently has type ratings in two jet aircraft, but they expire at the end of the year! Potentially an employer could pay for the required training, but his time is running out. So he decided to put his best foot forward and pay his own way--on a bigger and more complicated plane: the Global Express. (Sounds like a Christmas movie/train). He was happy to learn that unemployed pilots get a 50% discount off the $65K price tag. The course is at Flight Safety--meaning he had a long drive to Delaware this weekend. I'm confident that he is going to do great. Just look at the simulator training computer!