First Hike of 2018


It seems like every January, we wait for that break between snowstorms to get outside and enjoy some sunlight and fresh air.  Four years ago, our January hike looked something like this...

Today our January hike looks like this...

Besides Little Lewie growing taller and getting older, our hikes have changed in other ways, too.  Friends are often invited, and thus, there's a lot of silliness to be had...

I had friends, too--my hubby, of course, and my bestie, Sue.

Finally, there was the reason for the hike in the first place...

As much as I'm not a winter person, I LOVE the changes in season.  Even among the barren trees, there's still so much beauty to be found.  Yes, this winter hike was just what we needed; it also satisfies my New Year's resolution to add more outdoor time to our sometimes very hectic schedule.  We'll see what the next few weeks bring...more snow?

The Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation)


Being raised by a mostly Hungarian family, I grew up Catholic.  Just like my great grandmother and great grandmother before her and great grandmother before her (you get the picture), I was baptized into the Catholic Church, and my grandmother (that lived right next door to us in the same house) saw to it that I went to church every week and learned my prayers.

Growing up, I always felt like I needed to go to church because if I didn't, I would be breaking one of the Commandments.  Unfortunately, my grandmother grew up with a fire and brimstone mindset, and she passed that along to me.  For that reason, I went to church out of fear that if I died, I might go to hell.  (I pictured myself living in a fiery cave for eternity, surrounded by multiple devils with pitchforks--you can have a wild imagination as a kid.)

Today I go to church with a different mindset.  Over the years, I started praying to God on my own--in the church, outside during walks, in my home, etc.  I have learned to have faith, and not because I thought I would be punished if I didn't, but because I believe life is extraordinary and I have witnessed the power of love, prayer, and forgiveness.  I also believe in the Golden Rule, namely, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which is supported by one of the greatest Commandments, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."  Thankfully, we live during a time of Pope Francis--a Pope that focuses on love, kindness, compassion, charity, and equity.  He may not be perfect as he still has to hold onto certain traditions (such as women cannot become priests), but he preaches the message of love, acceptance, and peace.  In a world full of turmoil, his message is needed now more than ever.

Following tradition, Lewie was baptized into the same Catholic Church where I was raised.  In elementary school, he started attending CCD, and now, last week, he made his second sacrament, Reconciliation or Penance.  He learned his prayers (the same as my grandmother taught me), but this time, I focused on the ideals of love, kindness, and forgiveness.  He learned the Ten Commandments through a softer, child's version (not the old-school way that I did), and I taught him that above else, to be thankful to God and to be kind to others.

This is the same church where I made my Sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Communion, Confirmation, & Marriage.
As Lewie grows up, he may choose to stay Catholic or follow a different religion.  For now, while he is young, I want him to understand our faith through a softer lens and develop a relationship with God.  Reconciliation last week was special because Lewie met with the same priest that baptized him, Father Kvedas.  Father Kvedas also married Lew and me and was there for my sacrament of Confirmation (in high school).  (He's also the same priest that performed funerals for my dad and my father-in-law.)  To say that he's been a part of our family for many, many years is an understatement.

I know my grandmother would be proud to see that I'm passing along our family's faith and tradition.  I suppose I'm proud, too, to be "passing the torch," so to speak.  In the end, I hope Lewie learns to be a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate person because of it.

A Year of Cub Scouts - Bear


In first grade, Little Lewie joined Cub Scouts as a Tiger.  The following year, he became a Wolf, and now he's completing his third year as a Bear.  It's hard for me to believe that in just two short months, Lewie will be crossing over to a Webelo (an acronym for We'll Be Loyal Scouts).

His years in school are certainly going by fast, but for some reason, his years in Cub Scouts seem to go by even quicker.  His year as a Bear flew by, but we managed to accomplish some exciting things--from his first camping trip, to using a pocket knife for the first time, to planning a "carnival," to learning about safety, history, and wildlife.  Unfortunately, I don't remember to take pictures during all our den or pack meetings.  (It's hard to squeeze it in when you're running the show.)  Still, here's some of our few camera worthy moments....

First Camping Trip
Lewie's First Camping Trip was a two-nighter at Matthies Memorial Park in our town.  Since our family is not very good at camping, the location was perfect!  We pitched our tent for one night and still had to drive home twice (five minutes away) to retrieve things we forgot!  My husband refused to poop in the outhouse, so he drove home again for a third or fourth time.

The kids did a nature walk, they fished, they played tag, they made s'mores, they sang campfire songs, and they watched Return of the Jedi on a big inflatable screen.  The most memorable part for me, besides sleeping in our tent, was little Lewie falling asleep on the movie.  This kid rarely falls asleep on movies at home, but a full day outside hiking and fishing was the perfect sleep sedative.

Scouting for Food
For three years now, every Oct./Nov. we collect cans and non-perishable food items from our neighbors for our local food pantry.   When we did this with Lewie as a Tiger (seven years-old), he thought we were collecting food for the pilgrims.  Now, at age nine, Lewie understands we do this to help people in our community who are struggling.  Each year, we donate more of our time, and this year, I'm proud to say that we not only collected the food, but we sifted through 100+ bags to check food labels and helped stock the pantry.

Pinewood Derby
This year's Pinewood Derby was fun!  Lewie did not have the fastest car, but he won the most colorful award.  When he was a Tiger, he held back tears for not winning.  This year, after he lost, he happily cheered on his friends, and in fact, two of his good friends came in first and third place.  My husband, as Assistant Cubmaster, had the joy of handing out all the participation awards and certificates.

The three winners:  Erik (First), Jack (Second), Hunter (Third)
This was a GREAT year for Cub Scouts.  Thankfully, even once Lewie becomes a Webelo, we'll still have two more years left...  I hope to cherish every moment.

The Lancaster Marionette Puppet Theater


During our Pennsylvania trip to Hershey Park and Koziar's Christmas Village, we made one more stop--the Lancaster Marionette Puppet Theater.  Admittedly, the city of Lancaster itself, a college town, has lots of cool restaurants and small businesses to explore; I was disappointed that my two boys (Big Lew and Little Lew) voted to return to the hotel rather than visit the area.  Still, we made it to the Theater, which 1) taught me more about the art of marionette puppetry and 2) inspired me to see how the owner, Robert Brock, has turned his passion and talent into his livelihood.

Our tickets to the theater, $15 per person, were to see "Cinderella's Christmas."  We were advised to come early for seating, so we arrived about 20 minutes beforehand and were pleasantly surprised to be given a backstage tour.  The owner showed us his studio (filled with marionette puppets) and explained how he was not only the one to write, memorize, and perform the play but also the one to make the puppets (crafted from recycled water bottles and cardboard Lean Cuisine boxes).

Before coming to the theater, my only exposure to marionette puppets was in The Sound of Music, where the Von Trapp children performed "The Lonely Goatherd."  This part of the movie was fun, entertaining, and whimsical.  So, to see such puppets up close and personal was quite unique.  Mr. Brock explained how he used his hands to control the puppets' mouth and arm movements, admitting that sometimes the strings will get caught, which can be frustrating but also part of the entertainment.

After the visit backstage, we all took our seats in the theater (Little Lewie and the other children had their own seating upfront) and the lights dimmed.  Mr. Brock wasn't kidding about being a "one-man" show.  He coordinated all the puppets' movements with his hands while simultaneously doing all of their voices and controlling the background lighting and Christmas music.  The show was enthralling and funny.  We (the audience) belly-laughed multiple times--first at the ugly step-sisters and their vanity and then at the Fairy Godmother and her celebrity-like persona.  The lines were humorous, all made-up by Mr. Brock himself.

I was sad when the 45 minute show came to an end.  We were allowed to take pictures after the performance, so I snapped a few more pictures of "the cast," and then we exited the theater, knowing a lot more about marionette puppets than when we first arrived.

In my mind, the "charm" of the theater was really Mr. Brock himself.  He explained that he always loved puppets and putting on puppet shows as a kid and now, forty+ years later, he is still living out his childhood dream.  He LOVES what he does, and he's talented at it too.  (He has an amazing singing voice.)  He asked his audience to leave good reviews of the theater on Trip Advisor, so he could stay in business another 30+ years; now that's what I call passion!