26 December 2016

Christmas 2016 (part 1)

Christmas has been lovely so far, and we are looking forward to more fun when Isabel and Matthew arrive tomorrow! 
The church choir sang at 6pm Christmas Eve Mass, and our director asked Tessie and me to cantor. We had fun getting ready and singing great music for this special feast!

with Aine before Mass

annual family picture after Mass
Going home, Tessie and I had snapchat fun in the car. 

At home, we said Christmas vigil Vespers, then had a late dinner of soup and homemade bread. After singing carols and putting the Infant Jesus in the manger of Mom's old nativity set, we spent the rest of the night talking and playing games.

We opened two presents on Christmas Eve--they were games we played before going to bed.

Next morning, we had an extravagant breakfast supplied by gifts from relatives (special breads, cheeses, etc.), and headed to the music room to open gifts. 

having fun on with Tess

I don't have pictures of present time, but I promise it was lots of fun. We lazed around and played games most of the day. We kids have a tradition of playing MarioKart on Christmas, and we upheld it royally.

We had a huge and delicious dinner, ate cookies, and had more fun before retiring early. I'll make a future post about special gifts received and given.

Our dinner table.

Merry Christmas!

23 December 2016

To the Blessed Virgin

"Lo! You were somebody all of a sudden." (Magnificat, Paul Claudel)
You were an ordinary peasant girl. Perhaps you were hanging clothes to dry or shelling peas when it happened. One moment you were Mary, daughter of Joachim, and the next, there was an angel kneeling before you and you were Mary, mother of God.
Suddenly you were somebody. You never saw it coming. Perhaps your recent prayers had been lukewarm. But God had already singled you out from the moment of your conception to be His special handmaiden. That was why the angel hailed you as "full of grace." You possessed within your soul the grace to say yes to God's plan. And that yes was not without its concomitant questions. 
"How can I be with child? What will those around me think? Will Joseph understand? Will I be deserted?" And most deeply, "Why has God chosen me to perform this sublime task?"
But the angel reassured you, and you took God at His word. 

22 December 2016

Christmastime Road Trip

Cecilia arrived for Christmas break on Saturday, but Susannah wasn't scheduled to get in until Tuesday night. So, being the friends we are, we planned a road trip to Omaha to get her from the airport and catch up at the same time. We even compiled a playlist to listen to during the drive.
The weather couldn't have worked out more perfectly, and we are all thankful for that. Grandma Kane kindly gave us dinner and a place to stay the night while in Omaha. We had an amazingly fun time.

On the way!

Sus's flight arrived at 11pm, then we went back to Grandma Kane's house and hung out for a while. In fact, we stayed up until almost three, talking and laughing and enjoying each other's company. We hadn't all been together for four months, and that is entirely too long.

Next morning we had a lazy breakfast, then Sus gave us our Christmas presents. She bought us all matching RPI shirts, so of course we had to take a picture.

We stopped at Trader Joe's for goodies and hit the road. It was a gorgeous day, and we kept a lookout for wide fields to photograph for Sus's east coast friends.

It's so good to have my twins home again! We have lots of fun things planned for the Christmas season. 

15 December 2016

Concerts, and concerts, and more concerts.

I was asked to turn pages/help in general with the SDSU choir concert on Sunday. So I spent a good five hours at the PAC, turning pages for accompanists, helping herd choirs in and out of doors, informing musicians of where we were in the program, and playing filler music between songs. They were two really good concerts. I was exhausted at the end.

Then, on Monday was our high school choir concert. My choir sang O Filii et Filiae (Leisring), There Shall A Star (Mendelssohn), White Christmas (arr. Snyder), and He Is Born (arr. Forrest) with Mixed Choir. And then there was the traditional Hallelujah Chorus with combined choir at the end. I think I've finally memorized the alto part of the Hallelujah Chorus...

Tessie wasn't into the whole taking a picture thing...

And THEN, on Wednesday was the youth Christmas program at church. I've been helping with youth choir and I played piano for their songs during the Christmas pageant. They are one cute and enthusiastic bunch of kids, and they did a great job singing. But I am very glad I don't have to play that music anymore.

with Janine and Mikalyn, our buddies!

And with those four concerts in as many days, semester one of senior year is finished. Hallelujah.
(All photos from Mom)

05 December 2016

Christmassy Weekend

We were busy and festive this weekend!
It started with the homeschool group's annual mother-daughter Christmas Craft Afternoon, at the Scotts' house. This is always a super fun and artsy way to begin gathering Christmas gifts and decorating the house. We drank tea and hot chocolate, ate cookies, and crafted to our hearts' content! It was really nice to see some of the SMF aunties that I hadn't seen since school started!

The annual couch picture--it keeps getting smaller! Photo from Mama Scott.

Their Christmas tree is always gorgeous!
I spent the night with Nicole, and the next morning I sang with her in the Cathedral choir, which was a great experience. It was lovely to be back in the Cathedral, and singing from the choir loft!
After Mass we climbed in the car and drove to Minneapolis, MN, for Isabel's choir concert. It was a big-deal concert--Isabel's last--and took place in the Orchestra Hall. We got a nice hotel, had dinner with Isabel and Matt, and went to the concert. It was a wonderful dose of Christmas music!

The morning sky from our hotel room.

We were on the 10th floor and had a lovely lighted courtyard below us.
It was a fun, friend-filled, musical, and Christmassy weekend! Only three weeks until Christmas!

30 November 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016...done!

All finished with NaNoWriMo 2016! Final word count of 50,166, written in 28 days! 
I'm so glad I got my third book written...but man does it need editing! The agenda for next semester is revisions, revisions galore! 

It was so cool to participate again in a project that is so intimately related to a huge part of who I am. I think I will miss it next year, but in college maybe I'll be too busy to notice!

29 November 2016

Last Quiz Bowl of the Semester!

Last Monday was our last high school quiz bowl until January. We had a different team than usual, and it was really fun. We won second place!

28 November 2016


What a busy five days!
Patrick arrived on Tuesday and Isabel and Matt arrived on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, I received a lovely package in the mail including this letter:
So yay! It's official!
On Wednesday evening, the fam threw a surprise birthday party for Tessie. 
Thanksgiving had the usual festivities, none of which I have pictures of. Claudia had us over to her apartment, and of course we played games.
picture from Claud
Then, on Sunday, it was Tessie's actual birthday. I can't believe she is sixteen!
The only picture of the two of us on her birthday!
So it was a weekend full of celebrations! Now we are settling back down and enjoying Advent!

18 November 2016

Things Galore

November always seems to be a busy month. What with NaNoWriMo, quiz bowls, choir rehearsals, standardized tests, and other random events going on, there hasn't been a lot of downtime. Today was a snow day for the high school so we had a relaxed "sweatpants day." The musical, Beauty and the Beast, opened yesterday, but they had to cancel tonight's performance because of the weather. Tessie was glad for the break.
On day 18 of NaNoWriMo, my current word count is 34,287. It's been a pretty steady climb. The most I've written in a day was 4,200-something, so I'm well ahead of the daily quota, but not crazy-ahead (like some of my writing buddies are). This book has definitely been more of a challenge to write than last year's, but I'm hoping the finished product will make it worth it. It's so cool to have time to write books in high school.
We have had three high school quiz bowls this year so far. My team has placed first, second, and third at each one, respectively. There were 46 teams at Monday's, so the competition was heated! The one scheduled for Monday will have 34 teams, so it shouldn't be quite so overwhelming.

Our first-place win in Brookings.

Both our teams at Roosevelt--we got third, our other team got second.

Yesterday we went to the opening night show of BHS's fall musical, Beauty and the Beast. It was a fantastic production, as always. I'm looking forward to going again tomorrow. 

She was such a cute piece of silverware! This is her smile after three performances in one day!

I've dug out the Christmas music books to start practicing for the season, and I'm enjoying it! We have some good repertoire in concert choir, and the Youth Choir Christmas program at church is going to be adorable. Now I just have to learn that music...

Next week is the flood of siblings for Thanksgiving. We're excited to have all seven kids together for the first holiday in two years!

08 November 2016

Freedom, Conscience, and Law

On this Election Day, I've been thinking about some of the things I learned in Moral Theology recently.

The chapter I just finished was about moral conscience. The one before that was about freedom. And the one I began today is about law.
As human beings, we are subject to eternal law. Eternal law is "the cosmic order established by God," or in other words, the set of rules by which God governs the universe. Everything in the universe is subject to eternal law, by nature or by reason.
Human beings have a special relationship with God because we have immaterial souls which share in His immortal nature, and we possess intellect, the ability to reason. We are self-aware, are capable of self-reflection, and hold dominion over all other creatures because of our rational souls. This special likeness to God we have comes with its own set of responsibilities.
Every human possesses both freedom and free will. Freedom is our choice between right and wrong. Free will is our God-given ability to recognize and choose the good. By freedom, we are not puppets of God. By free will, we can conform our will to God's and grow in a relationship with Him.
We also possess a conscience, which is one's faculty for making moral decisions. We have an obligation to form our conscience according to, among other things, natural law. Natural law is that part of eternal law which pertains to human life. It is inscribed in our hearts and forms the basis for moral knowledge.
Conscience is subject to law, which is subject to truth. The purpose of law is to protect the common good of a community, which means protecting each citizen's freedom of conscience and other inalienable rights. If a law goes against what is true or good, it is void. Right conscience prevails over unjust law.
All this means that one's civic duty is also one's moral duty. To separate matters of civil law from matters of morality would be to deny the nature of both the former and the latter. We have a civil obligation to participate in the government in various ways (such as voting) and a moral obligation to do all in our power to help the government maintain only that which is necessary for the common good. Law is necessary for the organization and harmony of society, but society does not exist as a result of or a vehicle for law. Therefore civil law is subject to moral law. Moral law informs civil law and ensures its justness.
That was just some of my rambling about this fascinating topic. Moral theology is one of the most interesting things I've ever studied.
May God continue to bless this country, regardless of the election results.

03 November 2016

Some Art

The twins had asked me for some art for their birthday, so I took the opportunity last week to do some art with books. I got a book from the antique store and had fun doing things with the pages.

 First I tried different styles of "blackout poetry." I plan to do more interesting versions of these in the future. It's hard to choose the words, but looks pretty cool once it's finished.

For the twins I made quotes on the book pages, which I'd done a watercolor wash on first. I was really happy with how these turned out.

31 October 2016

SD Allstate Chorus 2016

This past weekend was Allstate Chorus: a fun, exhausting, and music-filled experience! Every year Allstate Chorus is comprised of quartets from almost every school in the state. The school holds auditions to decide on its representatives, and the number of quartets a school sends depends on the size of the school. Brookings takes four quartets every year, and I was the alto for Quartet 3.

We drove down to Sioux Falls on Thursday night and ate dinner together before checking in at the Premier Center and going to the hotel to sleep.
The next morning we climbed into the bus bright and early so we could get good seats. Because of the number of people in Allstate Chorus (around 925) seats are not assigned, and as the place is gigantic it's good to get there early and sit toward the front so you can see the director. We sat in our quartets, and we were actually able to have two Brookings quartets right next to each other.
Then the rehearsing began. I think on Friday we had a total of around 9 hours of rehearsal. Our director, Jerry Blackstone, is from the University of Michigan and won a Grammy at some point. He took some getting used to, but he really knew what he was doing and had no problem getting 900 singers on the same page. One of the coolest things about honor choirs, etc. is getting to work with well-known and highly skilled directors that you'd never meet otherwise!

On Friday we were also able to see a short live jazz concert before dinner, which was fun except by that time we were so tired many of us fell asleep! After dinner it was back to rehearsal until 9pm. We were all glad to finally return to the hotel and get some much-needed rest.
Saturday morning didn't start out quite as early, since we already had seats. We took a group photo in our Allstate shirts before going into rehearsal.


Then we had another full day of rehearsals, including practicing our two combined songs with the orchestra. At around three we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the concert. Some parents brought us an early dinner to eat while we got ready, and then we had a very long photo session. (I don't have pictures of that yet.)
Then we loaded the bus for the concert! The concert went quite well, surprisingly well, I might say. By the end of the night we were utterly exhausted and I was glad to hop into the car back home and sleep and sleep.

Our concert program:
The Star-Spangled Banner (with the orchestra)
Then the orchestra played their three pieces, which I don't know the names of.
How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place by Brahms, sung in German (with the orchestra)
Alleluia from "Songs of Faith" by Paul Basler
Come to Me, My Love by Norman Dello Joio
Music Down in My Soul, a gospel song arranged by Moses Hogan
Loch Lomond, a Scottish folk-song arranged by Jonathan Quick
Bright Morning Stars, a traditional Appalachian song arranged by Shawn Kirchner (my personal favorite; we sang it in memory of a four-year Allstater who was killed in a car accident on Monday)
If Music Be the Food of Love by David Dickau
Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem I) by George Frideric Handel (with the orchestra)

 It took a while to find my family in the enormous crowd after the concert, but I eventually found them and we got some pictures. Can you tell how exhausted I am?

(photos from Mom)

Overall, a successful, though tiring, weekend! I came home with a cold, but at least I didn't get sick before the concert! A huge thank-you to everyone who makes these things happen!!