Friday, December 28, 2012

Peekaboo - Someone is one!



This time last year we were holding a sleepy newborn in our arms, and now Miss Z is one!

I could not imagine life without her. She is our sunshine baby in the middle of winter - always smiling, laughing, interacting.




Of course today we are all under the weather a bit so there have been a few tears. We had planned a little extended family celebration but we postponed it until New Year's Eve, when we put on a family bash. That should hopefully give time for the germs to clear and for me to clean up post-presents and do more baking.


I will post some cake smashing photos in the New Year.

Meanwhile, give your babies - young and old - a BIG hug and an even BIGGER blessing on this Feast of the Holy Innocents, those first martyrs for Christ. Can you imagine the brutality, the shock, the loss those poor mothers and families felt? It is too easy today to say that the present is full of evil, full of brutality, full of death,so much more than the past, and to question, why? Don't you think that has been true of every age? Isn't that why Jesus was born? To break the cycle of sin, to open up heaven, and to bring us all to Him at the end of times? Let us pray that we remember these holy innocents and remember their sacrifice for all the world, that it brings to mind our own choice as well. Do we choose Christ - would we die for Him - or are we against Him as those precious babies' persecutors were? Do we choose life... or death? An interesting read - On The Feast of the Holy Innocents: A Meditation on the Sins Committed Against Children.


"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
— St. Augustine

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Prayer

I had no intentions of posting here today, but a friend posted the following prayer on Facebook , having shared a status update from New Apologetics. I loved it, and felt the need to share here as well. I hope you had a wonderful day.


A Christmas Prayer (Inspired by St. Thérèse)

My God, I have done little to prepare for Christmas. I have prepared myself poorly for the feast of your birth, and I will celebrate it as poorly. If I say that there is an "ought", I can say also that I have not lived up to it. And now I say I love you.

I do not attempt to reconcile these contraries, for they reconcile only in you. My fallen nature, which loves and desires you so mightily while yet being pressed into the earth, slowly crushed under the weight of failure, unimportance and tragedy, I offer to you as an act of love.

Should I try to burn these sins out of myself, I would only be running away from you; if you do not condemn me, ought I condemn myself? So I must set out to correct myself only by love, being content to fail often and heavily without growing impatient with myself, though the pain and humiliation of failure should consume me. This failure too I offer to you as an act of love.

And even in this I do not expect to succeed, for I know that I shall grow impatient with myself, shall desire my virtues to be greater than they are, shall despair at the sight of the successes of others when I know myself to succeed so little. This I also offer to you as an act of love.

Though you have shown this to me about myself, I should not suppose that I will see it in others however I may desire it and attempt it. I shall see others as below me if they do not meet my standards, and I shall be in fear of those who exceed my capacities. Though I resist it and though even the first movement of thought shall be a torment to me, I know it will happen. I neither excuse it, nor ask (in that way) that it be removed. I only offer it to you as an act of love.

I know also that I will take what is reserved for you, and I will judge myself for my faults. I will determine for myself what needs to be changed, and when; I will set about it diligently, for who can bear to see themselves so bad? In doing so, I will be as a house divided against itself; I will attempt to remove my own speck, for who can see one’s own plank? Yet in addition to all of this, my God, though I may not be able to prevent it happening, I offer myself, as undivided as I know how to give, to You, for Your own judgment. 

So this is my offering to you on this Christmas, my Lord. I offer you all that is distasteful to me in myself, and I desire to bear serenely this trial of being displeasing to myself, though I expect to fail even at that. In my own disfigured person, I offer you the whole of trainwrecked humanity, for we are all alike. I derive my hope only from your love of me, not from my contemplation of my own virtue (which is fortunately lacking, for I would delve into that idolatry were it available to me, and -who knows?- I may be guilty of it already for I do not know myself). I trust only in your passionate love, which I believe transforms my sin into your infinite holiness at every moment, whether or not I feel it.

I therefore come to You this Christmas, my God, with empty hands. If I am not yet grateful for all that has been done for me, I will not be too hard on myself, for I know that it is only because you have not finished giving me what you desire. You will not be outdone in generosity, and when you are through, I am guaranteed to be overwhelmed in it, and the gratitude in which I am so lacking now will pour forth as water and blood from my side, and I will cry out, with You, “it is finished!” And then, my Lord, all shall be well.

Merry Christmas!

I am so excited to wake up tomorrow and see the look of excitement on my kids' faces! Miss Bear is eager to see baby Jesus under the tree, but I suspect the boys are more eager for the presents, both of whom went to bed with their erector sets, wishing to find another waiting under the tree. As my oldest said when I asked him about taking them to bed, "Just in case we get another one so we can combine them to build really neat stuff." So there you go, stuff. :)

Really, though, I remember the excitement and the feeling that I would never fall asleep ever. And then of course waking up incredibly early. (I sure hope my kids do not get up that early!!!) As a mom, however, I was ready for bed time just like any other day. We are all a little under the weather so we decided to go to Christmas morning Mass and hopefully get a good night's rest instead.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyous day! Let me leave you with some photos of my quiet evening and a little Christmas prayer, from me to you.







May Jesus, the newborn Son of God and Mary, dwell in your heart and increase your trust in him.

May your trust in God strengthen you in your daily life so that you can respond to him with your whole heart, as Mary did.

May God reward you for your kindness by warming his own love and deepening your communion with Jesus throughout the coming year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Final Plans: last of Advent and Christmas

My brother and his family are in town. The presents are wrapped, thank goodness! We are making cookies tomorrow - a family affair. The last Advent prayers will be said. My husband is off work now through January 2nd on a much-deserved (and much-needed) break. The entire company shuts down for the holidays. Isn't that nice? This company has been the friendliest family company he has worked for. They all put in a lot of hours, but the company has a nice pattern of up and down time (versus continuously long hours with no end in sight like previous employers). And, finally, we are all excited for Christmas to arrive!

On a side note, I sing the appropriate verses of O Come O Come Emmanuel each night after praying each O Antiphon. As I have mentioned before, I cannot sing well and for the life of me, I cannot catch the right tune for the other verses in this song. I said as much the other night, and my oldest (he's seven), said, "It sounds good to me." That boy is such a sweetie.

So onto the plans for the last few days of Advent and for the Christmas season. As always, these are my plans. Life happens, but I do at least try to keep all the prayers intact (though on occasion even that slips).

This post is rather long as there are so many wonderful feast days to celebrate during Christmas!


Last few days of Advent...

  • Finish up the Advent side of the Jesse tree. Work on making the 12 Days of Christmas add-on to have ready.
  • Pray the last of the O Antiphons.
  • Continue praying around the Advent wreath (replace the greens Christmas Eve).
  • Joseph and Mary arrive at Bethlehem (the nativity scene).
  • Finish Jotham's Journey: a Storybook for Advent (I am loving this book this Advent - so is Skipper!).
  • Final grocery shopping.
  • Ice-skating on Sunday.
  • Bake cookies on Sunday (ice or wait until Christmas Eve?).
  • Go look at Christmas lights.
  • Make starlight cookies.
  • Make and order photo book for Miss Z's first year.

Christmas Day

  • Attend Christmas Mass.
  • Reveal Christ candle.
  • Lay baby Jesus in the manger.
  • Have orange cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
  • Celebrate Christmas with husband's family.
  • Begin wise men on their journey.

December 26th: Feast of St. Stephen

  • Prayer.
  • Celebrate Christmas with my family.
  • Read the story of St. Stephen in the Book of Acts, chapter 6 and 7.
  • Sing "Old King Wenceslas."
  • Do something with the corporeal works of mercy for the poor (poor box?).

December 27th: Feast of St. John the Apostle

December 28th: Feast of the Holy Innocents & Miss Z's Birthday

  • Prayer and Blessing of the Children. Add prayer for the unborn and the end to abortion.
  • Listen to Coventry Carol.
  • Maybe a symbolic breakfast? Oatmeal or pancakes with raspberry preserves? (To symbolize innocent blood shed.)
  • Have small family celebration for Miss Z's birthday, which means family, a few presents and a cake.

December 30th: Feast of the Holy Family and My Nephew's Baptism

  • I have Holy Family puppets the kids can make if time allows and they want. They are something I had found a few years ago, but never made.
  • Do something together as a family - outside of the baptism.
  • Quietly renew wedding vows between my husband and I.
  • Pray for all families and for our country to uphold the sanctity of the marriage bond, which is under attack.
  • Attend my *godson's* baptism. ;)

December 31st: New Year's Eve

  • Have our annual family party. Music, pictures, games, food, fun.
  • Use a Saint's Name Generator to pick out a family saint for the year 2013.

January 1st: Mary, Mother of God

January 3rd: Most Holy Name of Jesus

January 5th: St. John Neumann (by Skipper's request)

  • Prayer.
  • Plan future visit to a prayer center nearby with dedication to St. John Neumann (or possible field trip IF the weather cooperates).
  • Do something extra based on his life? I have some ideas...

January 6th: Epiphany of the Lord

  • Kings finally arrive in Bethlehem.
  • House blessing.
  • Sing "We Three Kings." Kids dress up and act out or act out using nativity sets?
  • Star-shaped pancakes for breakfast or lunch.
  • Make a king cake.

January 13th: Baptism of the Lord

  • Prayer - repeating of baptismal vows as we light each candle.
  • Table decor: one white candle for each family member surrounded by shells.
  • Go down memory lane - baptismal candles, pictures, gowns, etc.
  • Make baptism tree ornament to hang on Christmas tree (have picture of each child and baptismal date). Make one for our godchildren and send next Christmas?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Light One Candle: an Advent Song

A few years ago, when my boys were in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our then local parish, my oldest came home with a copy of a simple song, "Light One Candle" by Natalie Sleeth. I pulled it out this year and am singing it as I light each appropriate candle.

I love to sing, but in truth, I was not born a singer. This song, however, transforms even a bad pitch like mine into something halfway decent. Plus, my kids - ok, Miss Bear though sometimes Critter too - enjoy trying to sing with me. The good part? The song is very simple, both in lyrics and in melody so it is an easy one for us to learn and do.

In the hopes of sharing the song with you, I tried researching it, but this was the best I could find. For those who can read sheet music, check out sheet music plus. You can see the music easily enough. This particular version is in duet form, but we simply sing together using the top melody. You have the option of paying a very small fee to own the sheet music.

For those who prefer listening and picking up on the song, take a look at this group of children singing it.

Here are the lyrics. Simple, right?

Light one candle for hope,
One bright candle for hope.
He brings hope to everyone.
He comes. He comes.

**For verses 2-4, replace hope with peace, joy, and love.**

Advent Plans: Week 3


Can you believe Advent is nearly over? I feel like it has barely begun! Thankfully this past week went much better than the last one. We still have a pretty full week ahead of us to prepare for Christmas and the busy week that follows.

Miss Bear was very excited to finally have the pink candle lit. Now the three older kids can each blow out a candle without having to fuss over whose turn it is.

Today, we set out a few items. A cute little ceramic dish my grandmother gifted me one year:


We put the empty manger in the nativity scene, awaiting baby Jesus:


I hid the baby Jesus in this mini stocking and hung it on the tree for safe keeping. (And away from eager little hands who love baby Jesus so very, very much.)


Mary and Joseph started their journey to Bethlehem up in the kids room by their mini tree. One year I hope to purchase this La Posada figurine for this part of our tradition. Until then, I use the Mary and Joseph from our Holy Family set. Each night, once the kids are asleep I move Mary and Joseph to another part of the house. Finally, on Christmas Eve, they arrive in "Bethlehem."


We have a crazy, wild tree to transform this year. Living in small town Ohio, we did not find a decent place to buy a Christmas tree. My dad suggested cutting one from the back of their property. We found a promising one, but once inside, the tree took on a life of its own! Well, it is definitely unique and will write itself into this year's Christmas story, and no doubt we will remember it just as we do stories from previous years - the year of the flat tire and sick cat, the first quiet year of no traveling when I was eight months pregnant with Critter, the year we had the stomach flu...


We started decorating the tree a bit - some lights and garland. And a baby. ;) Miss Z did not like the garland one bit. She cried and if it blocked her path, she would sit and not crawl over or around it.


This week, I am trying to keep the days as low-key as possible before next week's craziness, but we do have some things to do.

Tomorrow is a day of fun. My husband has a bunch of days to take off and use up before the end of January. We had planned to go to a certain aquarium until we looked closer and saw the ridiculous price for a one hour or so experience. Instead, we are taking the kids to play at an indoor park and do some bowling. As it nears dusk, we will finish decorating the tree and blessing it. And, of course, begin adding the O Antiphons to our prayer time.

I have to bake cupcakes for Skipper's religion class on Wednesday. They are having a birthday party for Jesus. I thought it would be cute to top the cupcakes with pictures from the nativity scene. My parish is also offering a prayer service that night so I hope to join if it does not conflict with the class and Miss Z is finally over this last tooth coming in.

Friday is the first day of winter and I want to do a few things with the kids: make some animal treats to put outside and I want to have no lights and electronics for the entire day. Once it grows dark, we will use candles and then perhaps we can bring out some board games. My brother and his family are due in from out of state sometime that day so I am not sure what will happen.

Other than that, we need to finish up a bit of cleaning to-dos, wrap gifts, and do the regular daily routine plus add in a bit of shopping, a little lab work (for Miss Bear), and Mass and confession. That will keep us busy!

Have a blessed third week of Advent!






Thursday, December 13, 2012

St. Lucia for the First Time


For the past few years I have wanted to celebrate the feast of St. Lucia, an early Church martyr. Last year we read the book, Lucia: Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde, which is a very nice book. It explains the story of St. Lucia well, and easily shares a popular way in which families celebrate this feast day - with the oldest girl dressed in white with a red sash and a candle wreath upon her head as she carries a sweet bread for breakfast to others in her household. Her brothers tag along in white gowns and star hats, carrying star staffs, and her younger sisters attend her in white gowns and tinsel halos. The family sings a song and enjoys their breakfast before sharing it, along with song and company to neighbors. This tradition was born in Sweden and has spread throughout the world since then. I think it is a beautiful tradition and one I hope to try out at least one year once Miss Bear is just a bit older and Miss Z can join in the fun.

However, here I was this morning without any form of sweet bread made (the days really are consuming me) - and I had no desire to hit the stores to buy gluten-free cinnamon rolls at $8 for four rolls. Yet, I also did not want to pass up this feast day again.

So... I found an extremely simple - and meaningful! - way to bring more to this feast day. Even better, the tradition's roots point back to the country of Hungary, among a few other European countries, which is the birthplace of my mother-in-law's parents.

The Planting of the Wheat

It is tradition to plant wheat in a shallow dish on the Feast of St. Lucia for a variety of reasons:
  • There will be new green shoots come Christmas, reminding us of new life, of Jesus born in Bethlehem.
  • Wheat reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life.
  • The name Bethlehem itself means house of bread.
  • We might also remember the parables of Jesus where He uses wheat as starring role. One such verse:
"Lord, my soul is the flour into which I invite You to knead Your grace. As I feel punched and beaten and slapped around by life, let me realize that You are but kneading me into someone new and good." Matthew 13:33 
  • And of course, wheat reminds us of the Eucharist itself.
Well, considering I had no wheat berries in the house or any reason to, as we are a (mostly) gluten-free household due to celiac disease, I brought out our cat grass to grow in a little jam jar. The kids went out and filled the jar with driveway stones and dirt. (By the way, digging up the dirt would have been much easier had the ground not been frozen! ;))


Once inside (and de-thawed), we added the seed, covered with soil, and watered it a bit. As long as we keep it moist - not drenched - there should be some fresh sprouts come Christmas. Currently, our jar is sitting near the nativity, and come Christmas morning a candle can burn near it to remind us of the Light of Christ. The sprouts can also be cut and used as a soft bed for baby Jesus. Eventually I plan on gifting the grass to the cat... assuming of course he does not find it first!

For more on this tradition and other traditions for the Feast of St. Lucia, check out Penitents.org, where you can also purchase a wheat kit.

See Miss Bear peeking out? And a line of dirty boots by the broom. ;)

To wrap up our day, my husband and the kids put up a few outside lights. Over the past few years, I have been tweaking how we decorate and prepare the house physically for Christmas, and do my best to fit it into our liturgical year, and to be more intentional in how we decorate. It is a work in progress, but putting up our outdoor lights today, on the Feast of St. Lucia seemed fitting as she is associated with light - from lighting up the darkest day of the year to the candles on her head to her name, which means "light." Every year it makes me so happy to see how a simple strand of light can bring such a glow and sense of warmth.

One last thing that I thought of doing today, but never found time for, was having the kids make their gifts for their grandparents and dad. This year we choose to make picture candles. I bought ridiculously expensive candles (Yankee candles) - so much $$ but they smell so good and burn so nicely. They are jar candles, and once I print pictures of the kids off, they can attach them to the outside using a glue wash (glue watered down). Then, every time the candle is lit, they will be reminded of the kids. I thought it would be a nice touch for today to tie it in with the light theme, but never mind, we'll get around to it.

Prayer to St. Lucia

Saint Lucia, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and sin.

By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of all men.

Saint Lucia, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.

**For the fun of it, I also linked up with other bloggers who celebrated this feast day at Catholic Cuisine. Check out what they did!**

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gifts of Wonder


  
"Each year, God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.

"The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld…Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.

"Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.

"The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.…Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.

"Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’

"…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious and spiritual depths of ourselves.

~~ Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem.,THE PRIEST, Oct. ‘87, p.26

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent: Take 2

No, really, here we are on the second Sunday of Advent. (I don't care that technically it's actually Monday - it's still Sunday to me!) Last week sure took off on me. This is definitely an Advent that has been difficult to stay in the moment, to stay focused on the bigger picture, to keep my eyes on Jesus. The good Lord knows I am trying.

We had a bit of illness that came into Advent with us, and then another teeny tiny bug that followed on the heels of it - mostly the girls, and just enough to cause multiple restless and sleepless nights. For them, for me. Add to that an exposure to gluten (I can only speculate) and the end of the first week of Advent found a very stressed-out, way too emotional, spaced-out, and not herself mama. Thankfully, I woke up this morning feeling much more myself - and feeling quite penitent as well.

In the midst of all that ickiness, we did do some of the items on our to-do list at least, and the kids did enjoy themselves. The Advent wreath was a special moment of the day. The kids love eating by candlelight (so do I). The Jesse Tree is a favorite with Skipper. Finding candy canes in their boots on the Feast of St. Nicholas along with a special St. Nick's cocoa for breakfast was a hit. Today we brought out the kiddie nativity sets which the kids love. They played with them all afternoon and took them to bed with them. I loved watching them play act and the phrases that came out of their mouths:
"Look Mom, my baby Jesus is smiling!"
"I love baby Jesus. He's my favorite."
"Look, all of my people are surrounding him [baby Jesus]."
"Mary and Joseph are on their way to Bethlehem. [holding Mary on the donkey and moving her as Joseph "walks" near her.] Baby Jesus hasn't been born yet."
"We can't put Mary or Joseph or Baby Jesus in the manger yet. It's not time. We have to wait." 
Our family nativity set still needs put up. We ran out of time today since we had a little birthday celebration for my mom. I baked her a German chocolate cake (finally), which was her "first" gluten-free birthday cake since just last week she had blood results come back positive for celiac disease. Now she joins the boys and I in the celiac rank. Later, we all went to see a Holiday Pops symphony.

Now we are home. The kids are in bed. It is late and morning will come too soon, but I wanted to pop on to share my plans for this second week of Advent and to wish you all a peaceful week.

Continue with... the Jesse Tree, the Advent wreath, my own morning readings and meditations.

Monday... Put up the empty nativity. Slowly add nativity figures throughout the coming days (but not the Holy Family or the three kings). Hang up stockings. A letter to Jesus for the angels to take away???

Wednesday... Our Lady of Guadalupe. Enjoy a taco salad for dinner. Read Our Lady of Guadalupe and watch Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe. Do some artwork (bean mosaic).

Thursday... Have cinnamon buns in the morning for the Feast of St. Lucia. Read Lucia Saint of Light. Have husband and the kids put up some outside decorations and lights.

Saturday... Find Christmas tree.

Sometime during the week... Cut limbs and make outdoor wreath (love the smell!). Make pinecone tree ornaments with the kids (think spray paint and lots of glitter). Attempt to learn new Advent song. We are not singers whatsoever but a part of me really, really wants that to be true. ;)

Mostly, I want to enjoy my children, read and cuddle, and feel this time of preparation pierce through me and ready us all for Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Midnight Odds & Ends

It's midnight. 12:02 to be exact. Late. Too late. Usually I am fast asleep by now. But baby is awake and I feel restless myself. (Please, Lord, let it not be another migraine!)

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We had a low-key week. Miss Z was sick with a high fever for 3 solid days and a night of bad congestion. A new tooth erupted to finish off her week. Poor girl. She is all smiles now - and laughs and lalala tongue noises because she loves to stick hers out. I think she's skipping crawling. She'll army crawl for the rare treasure and even try to get on her knees at times and hop a bit like a frog, but now she is very interested in standing - for very long times as a certain back can attest to. ;)

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Advent plans... they look so nice on paper - so nice and organized. It really is too bad that does not work when you go to implement it. All my first week's items are on my dining room table. I have no wall space for my much loved Jesse tree. I never got around to cutting greenery for our wreath and it is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow and maybe on Monday. And I still have the bulk of my shopping to do. What a mood killer that is. Only very rarely do I like to shop.

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So today was beautiful but busy. We used up the morning at the library and grocery store since we were house bound all week. At home I painted the front door which needed it badly. Of course Miss Z was so tempted she crawled 15 feet to stick her hand on the stoop, in the wet paint. Talk about motivation. And no sooner had I finished painting I came back to the door to see finger smudges. Ahhh! One day I will have smudge-free doors and it will be too quiet, and I fully expect I will love/hate that day.

I also baked up brownies for the kids and my husband. Of course I wanted something so I made pumpkin bars which I had never got around to making this fall. Boy, they are good but not good for me. I am getting pretty tired of food and how it affects me. Sometimes I dream of being blissfully unaware of what food can do to a person and just enjoying a bite of whatever. Or going out with a friend wherever. Or kissing your husband whenever. I suppose that's a dangerous path to go down but I haven't quite figured out how to stop the wishful thinking.

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Pictures... Blogger says I am all full and must pay $3/month to put pictures up. Really??? There must be another way. I just haven't figured it out.

Which means if you stuck through this wordy post, with too many "ands" and runon sentences and improper English AND no pictures, then either you are bored at 1:00am or you are super sweet. God bless you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Plans: Week 1

Has it been a weird week for anyone else? I feel like Advent should be here already and yet we are still waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting... It's like a pre-Advent Advent. ;) I usually have most of my gifts purchased by now so I can fully focus on Advent, but alas, I do not. I do, however, have my Advent plans pretty much ready to go.

For the week ahead...


This Saturday we will gather all our necessary Advent items - pieces to form the Advent wreath, Advent calendars and countdowns, the Jesse tree and its ornaments. The weather is supposed to be half-way decent so that will be nice as we gather and cut fresh greenery for our Advent wreath. The kids will also make their annual paper chain with daddy to hang on their bedroom door.

My focus for the week is emptying our and purging the house. This is the week I focus on baring our house, almost to the point of it feeling bare. That is my goal. Whether I achieve the same level of bareness as last year, well, that may not happen. However, I do like this week for that. While everyone around me puts up their Christmas decorations, I am not even thinking of them and actually trying to de-decorate my house. Of course, everyone I know has already put up decorations since Advent is starting a bit late this year.

Each day the kids and I will gather around the Jesse Tree for our morning prayers and devotion - a Bible story, an ornament, and a new prayer for the Advent wreath:

All nations, everybody, is waiting for you, Indians and Eskimos are waiting for you. People in New York are waiting for you. People in Beijing are waiting for you. Jesus, come to us.

Sometime during the week the kids and will make a fun background to hang our stockings on. We are without a mantle this year so I plan on hanging them up the stairs using little hooks. I thought it would be festive to have a background for the hooks to go on, even a simple paper backing.

I would also like to make our outdoor wreath to hang between our door and front window. I just love fresh wreaths!

Usually throughout Advent we have no sweets except for our Sweet Sunday, but I did want to do a test batch of these Starlight Cookies with my adaptations. If not, we may just test batch the first time we do them on Christmas Eve!

For me... Besides purging the house, I turn inward, to focus on my spiritual life. I will continue the Christmas Novena and I will begin this Advent Bible study, which actually started on November 26th. I tried to start it, but you know, it was not Advent yet and it did not feel right! I altered their plans to include Sundays and right on in to Christmas. I am only using it for the Bible study but there are some nice additional (optional) family activities in it.

Christmas Around the World... The kids and I are taking a break - thankfully - from Ancient History (really, it is just not my cup of tea compared to other ages past) and learning about different Christmas traditions around the world. This week we are visiting Germany and Israel.

First Sunday of Advent... Blessing of the Advent wreath and first prayers. And hopefully a little Christmas Tapestry at my church in the evening.

Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th... read some St. Nick books, watch a fun video, have a little Santa's cocoa and a St. Nick pizza for dinner, St. Nick coins in the morning and assign secret missions.

Feast of St. Ambrose on December 7th... Read The Christmas Candle and decorate our Christ candle to be used for the Christmas season. Attend the vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th... Create our Mary candle (cover our Christ candle with a white cloth and tied with a blue ribbon, to be unveiled come Christmas). Hopefully have a special meal - all-white? Or perhaps a blueberry-centered breakfast?

Whatever your plans, God bless, and remember the reason for the season!

(By the way, I had a little sidekick that kept me at this post way longer than I intended to. My cat, Sirius, first fell off a little bench and kept me laughing. Then he very nicely jumped up and laid beside me with his head on my number pad on the keyboard and promptly fell asleep while punching keys at the same time. ;))

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

The Christmas Anticipation Prayer / Christmas Novena / St. Andrew Christmas Novena - whatever you want to call it - begins tomorrow and is prayed daily through Christmas Eve. It is believed that if you humbly pray this prayer fifteen times a day from November 30th (the Feast of St. Andrew) through Christmas Eve, that whatever you pray for will be granted. I printed out these lovely prayer cards last year, but did not start the prayer. This year I intend to. I will do the prayer alone this year, but when I decide to bring the kids in on the prayer in the future, I think these prayer beads would make a nice addition, don't you?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King


Christ Jesus, I acknowledge You King of the universe.
All that has been created has been made for You.
Make full use of Your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan and all his pomps and works,
and I promise to live a good Christian life and to do all in my power
to procure the triumph of the rights of God and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer you my efforts
in order to obtain that all hearts may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace may be established throughout the universe.
Amen.

This feast day is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I like how it draws the liturgical year to a close with the reminder that Jesus is our King, no matter what day and age you live in. It sets the stage for Advent, when we prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus, and it also serves as a reminder that Christ will always be our King, now and forever. 

"And He will come down in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end."

In the past few years it was also my day to prepare a special meal for my family before we headed to our hometown for Thanksgiving meals that were usually pretty stressful, what with all the dietary needs and all. So, for me, on this one day, I enjoyed some time in the kitchen before the rush of holidays began.

This year I had wanted to do a banner craft with the kids but we never got around to it with being so busy preparing for Thanksgiving last week. Still, Mass was nice - the kids got a kick out of seeing Father in new colors today and were excited to hear he will be wearing purple soon. ;) Really, my oldest is not the most observant with details like this so it seems all new to him now that he is aware of it. Yet, this is the same child who can recite a book he just read. Oh, he cracks me up.

Dinner was easy with some leftover Thanksgiving sides - green beans, sweet potatoes, a cornbread with sausage stuffing experiment that turned out great! I added a "spirit" glazed ham that was delicious. And to top off the meal I baked up a very yummy dessert that I only make on this feast day and on New Year's (by popular demand) because if I made it more often, simple as it is, I would be roughly the size of a house. :) And the dessert is... an orange chiffon cake with orange rum sauce. It is so good and quite easy to make, and best of all it is free of the top eight allergens but you do need the book, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal to have the recipe. My husband says it reminds him of the taste of the frosting from the tube of orange cinnamon rolls you can buy in the store or of the orange cakes put out by Hostess (or should I say were put out?). My parents and my in-laws came to help us eat up the cake and even my father-in-law, who is one of the pickiest eaters I have run into in my short life, tried it and liked it. Yay!

I hope you all had a beautiful day, and for those in the U.S., a nice relaxing holiday weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Full of Thanks (and food) and Advent Fast Approaching

We enjoyed a quiet holiday in my neck of the woods. Yesterday we ran around in short sleeves and today we huddled under blankets as snow fell, our second of the season. It never quite feels like Thanksgiving if there is not even a spit of snow somewhere in the days surround Thanksgiving.

I truly have so much to be thankful for. It is one little tradition I work hard at keeping up with the kids. The simplest way to do that is to have it happen at the dinner table. Just a few simple words, "What did you like best about today?" Thankfully, nearly every night - and lunch and breakfast - we are able to enjoy one another's company. Sometimes it still is a mad rush to eat on the rare occasion we are leaving our house post-dinner and many a time it is just a plain, loud, noisy affair and the question is not brought up. It really is fun to hear the answers. At the moment, Miss Bear is always thankful for being three. That's her answer to everything, "Three!"

Giving thanks has kept me sane over the past months as I struggle with a bit of depression. I don't know how it's "a bit" but I do not want to come across as complaining. I have been through this before and no doubt will struggle with it again. And I do feel oh so much better than I did just a few short months ago and for that I am very thankful. I continue to trust in God's healing, even if at times it feels so very, very slow. Now that I can help God out with my own healing, giving thanks each night before bed was truly my saving grace. When the only prayers I could utter were short, pleading prayers, somehow prayers of thanksgiving sprang easily to my mind and I let them pour out. I was constantly reminded of what I did have, and of how very blessed I am.


The month of November always brings two things right to my mind - death and thanksgiving. The kids and I - and even dad joins in some nights - have a tradition that I call our "grateful tree." Back in October I let the kids go wild with newspaper and red and yellow paint. Once it dried I used a template and cut out leaves. The leaves, a handful of paperclips, and a marker come together in a little jar that I keep near the tree. And the tree? It is a nice multi-branched, well, branch from the yard that I spray painted gold a few years ago. I used some foam (the kind from the florist section of a craft store) so the branch stands up in a pretty little pot and then filled it in with some paper and fall colored gem stones. Each night or so the kids say what they are thankful for, I write it down and they hang up their leaf. It is so pretty to look at and it is a great visual reminder of all we have to be thankful for.

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I have had a lot on my mind lately, one of those items being this blog. For a long while I considered the idea of not blogging at all, but I do not think that is the answer. I want to continue but I have a feeling I will be quiet for a bit longer as I figure out where I want to go on here. What I am going to do is prepare my heart and home in joyful anticipation this Advent, which is rapidly approaching!

Along the right side of my blog you will find all the links to last year's posts on all the ideas I use and have used. Over the next few weeks, I focus on emptying and cleaning our home. Of all my traditions, this is one I personally find visually refreshing. One, it prepares my home for the holiday but it also provides a sense of anticipation as I go from a clean, almost spare environment to slowly filling my home with signs of the season. 

For the kids, I most love the Jesse Tree, which shares our salvation history in a nutshell using a fun, hands-on daily activity, starting with the creation of the world to the birth of Christ. All it takes is a few minutes a day, but you could certainly add more to it if you so desired. We simply read the appropriate Bible story, find and hang the matching ornament.

For the family, my favorite tradition is the Advent Wreath, which we light each night at dinner, along with saying additional prayers. This year I am going to try lighting it with the kids in the morning to start our morning devotions along with an appropriate children's Advent prayer.

One new thing this year for the kids that we will try in a fun, let's see how it goes kind of way, is the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure. It's a free daily video/prayer/activity kind of thing. At the very least, the kids will enjoy the videos and they can see other kids living out their faith just as we do here.

I am also going to sign up for this Advent Study: Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus, an Advent journey put together by GoodMorningGirls.org, that begins on November 26th through December 21st. Thanks Lisa for the link! I am excited to see what happens with this.

And now, before Advent carries me away, I look forward to this Sunday's feast, the Feast of Christ Our King, and how appropriate to celebrate such a day at the end of the liturgical year, before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, which also reminds us that Christ will come again. He has ever been, is now, and will always be our king.

God bless.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Liebster Blog Award & Too Much Talking by Me

Lisa, from This Little Light of Mine, nominated me for this Leibster award. Thank you, Lisa! I sure enjoyed getting to know you more, and hopefully by this post, I can reciprocate. For my readers, if you have never visited Lisa, I urge you to. She leaves me pondering life and faith with every post.



11 Things About Me

1. When I was a little girl we lived in our garage. I always liked telling people that. It really was just a bitty house before my parents built an addition when I was about 8 and turned that part into the garage. Except for digging the basement and pouring the foundation, my parents built the entire house themselves! Can you imagine? I remember being clean-up crew. ;)

2. Once, as a very young girl, I remember sitting in the cool, dark kitchen (it was hot outside so the inside was closed up - no AC you know). Everyone else had finished their lunch and was outside about to enjoy the promised kiddie pool. But I was stubborn, hated hot dogs, and told my parents I was not eating lunch. Well, I was told to finish my plate or I could just sit there (I wasn't the only stubborn one). Instead, when everyone was gone, I put my hot dog at the bottom of the trash and told my dad I was done. No sooner did he come in that he went right to the trash, dug in, and found it. He was disappointed and I had to stay in my bedroom while everyone else enjoyed the water. The funny thing is, I actually liked cold hot dogs as a kid, just not heated ones.

3. In high school I ran cross country. I wasn't any good really, but I enjoyed it.

4. I married my high school sweetheart. I was just looking for a fun date for homecoming, a boy who was not afraid to talk to me. I had no idea it would be the start of a life together!

5. Making this list is hard... I never knew if I wanted children. I could never see myself with babies, and honestly did not think I would do that well with them. Boy, I sure am glad I did not listen to that interior voice! I could not imagine my life without them, and the more time we spend together, I have a huge feeling that they are indeed my own ladder to heaven.

6. I have one brother, younger than me by 18 months. He's in the army and we have barely seen each other for the last 15 years. Sad. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in a larger family. Of course now I know that large does not always mean close-knit. That still does not stop me from praying and hoping my own children remain close.

7. I like to woodburn, but rarely have the chance. I have only done two portraits, but I like to think I have a knack for it, and would like to do more. I have also played with burning on paper, to make cards and whatnot.

8. I have always liked to read, even if I have very little time for it at this stage in my life. One of my favorite authors is Jane Austen.

9. My 3 year old is a tomboy girly-girl. Me, I have absolutely no fashion sense, can never get my hair right (if I even attempt it), and can do the minimum of makeup. And mostly, I am ok with that. Except on really bad hair days. ;)

10. I love to grow herbs. They look good, smell good, and are super easy. I have found that they thrive with very little care, and even when I cut them way back, the plants bounce back quickly. I do use some of what I grown and others are just for fun.

11. I joined the Catholic Church when I was 23, nine years ago. I realize now that I had no idea what I was really doing, but thank goodness God did!

Questions asked by Lisa Maria from This Little Light of Mine.

Why do you blog?

I initially started because I had found so much inspiration from other bloggers in living out my Catholic faith and for homeschooling my young family that I thought it could be a way to share my experiences with others. Lately, however, I seem to have lost the why so I have been quiet. I think, ultimately, that it is a record of my journey and if it helps someone along, so be it, and if no one sees it, then so be it as well. Also, I have found it to be a nice way to find other women who share my beliefs and who are along the same vocation of marriage, motherhood, and homeschooling. This has been especially nice since moving to small town America and having both a small parish (where are the young children???) and a small homeschooling community (the group I joined has about 40 some families from a multiple county area, anywhere from ten minutes down the road to 40 minutes and most are older families as it is an older group).

What do you think is the best thing about blogging?


Blogging in general... connecting with others that you may not otherwise have ever met. It's nice to "talk" with others that have similar goals, especially when many around you do not.

Blogging on a personal level... it is a creative outlet and that always feels good when you finish something; when it looks and sounds good.

What are you most passionate about?


Oh boy. Time for brutal honesty. It's been a rough year. A good year, but a tough one mentally for me. Passion is in short supply. I cannot even say I am passionate about my faith in this very moment. I want to be. I am trying to be. But it is more like I am clinging desperately to a rock in the middle of a flowing river.

I suppose I am passionate about sharing my faith with my children. I pray daily that they have a stronger faith than I do; that they do not have this constant battle of ups and downs like me.

Do you have any dreams you would still like to pursue?


Yes. I would still like to putz around in a garden and turn my landscape into a place of beauty and usefulness  I would like to be more creative/artsy (is that a word?). I have a whole list of woodburning projects that I cannot wait to do... but I must... for now. ;)

What is your favorite childhood memory?


Hmm... this is a tough one. When I think of childhood, my brain shows wisps of memories. I have a horrible memory for specifics. So how about a collection of wisps? 

Holding my hand out the car window (the front car seat window of an old station wagon, with no seat belt on).

A girl and her best friend, rulers of the outdoors - pulling up worms, painting sheds, swinging on willows, jumping into the lake, imaginations wild.

Falling asleep on a summer's day on a hammock in the shade of a tree.

Family sled time in the back quarry.

The feeling of absolute innocence and of feeling safe.

What did you want to be when you grew up?


You know, all my friends wanted to be this or that. But me? I always had a hard time with that question. For awhile I thought maybe I would be dead by the time I was 20 because seriously, I had this huge wall of nothingness there whenever I would think about it. But you know, time moved on and I was 20 and not dead. Imagine that. :) I had flirted with being a pilot until I realized that I did not like going up and down in airplanes. For a bit I wanted to work with wolves. I think that mostly stemmed through my feelings that a wolf family was better than a human one. (I do love my parents and we do get along, but there were some rough patches that I never wish to see again.) I thought about writing. I never thought of marriage or being a mom. What I did end up doing was work in the environmental education field. I enjoyed being outside, being around kids, and teaching them a thing or two - and learning a thing or two myself!

What do you do when you need to re-energize?


This depends on the day and how much time I have. Sometimes a quick virtual trip does the trick. Other times, a little warm bath, time outside, reading a good book, having some fun tea, or talking with a friend. And I suppose saying a little prayer here and there. I never thought of it as re-energizing me though - more like preserving me.

What is your absolute favorite thing to do?


I have too many, but I guess one thing that is a bit all-encompassing is being creative - with the kids, with my own projects, with cooking, whatever. 

Do you have any pet peeves?


Yes, and probably more than I should have. Let's see, three big ones are... when people are more glued to their electronic devices than to people (I have considered placing a bowl out at family gatherings to collect all cell phones! Seriously annoying.)... not using turning signals in the car... using improper spelling and grammar (not that I am perfect) like when people mix up your and you're... 

Were there Titus 2 women in your life to inspire and guide you?


I had to look up to see what a Titus 2 woman was to answer this. Lisa, I suppose you are one of my current Titus 2 women as I always find inspiration from your blog (I sure hope this doesn't make you feel old!!! I have no idea how old you are anyway but considering your oldest is in college and mine is 7, I think you qualify for me). 

Growing up, there were two women I looked up to in my church (not Catholic) and they helped in guiding or perhaps safeguarding my heart for Jesus. I had other women in my life I looked up to for various reasons, but really, none shared with me what it is to be a daughter of Christ. No one talked about God or what it means to have Him in your life - how to act, how to pray, how to center your life around Him. I do believe this is very individual but still, I wonder what it would have been like to have had family prayer times, talking about God together and openly rather than in quiet, sad, desperate kind of moments. As a young woman preparing for marriage, I found the book, Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot, very inspiring - and I still do. It is one of the few books I pull off the shelf and read now and again. Over the last few years, I have found the book, A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot to be a big help in directing my vocation towards God's will.

What do you consider to be necessary to you for a happy life?


Prayer, laughter, family/friends, putting God first, keeping my mouth shut - at times anyway ;) - and speaking calmly (much easier said than done!).

Now, to pay it forward...

I have to choose a few bloggy friends who have less than 300 followers to do as I did. Tell me 11 things about yourself (anything at all), answer the 11 questions I pose to you (see below), nominate up to 11 other small blogs and let them know about the award, and create 11 questions of your own to pose those nominees.

Some bloggy friends I would like to know more about are: 

1. Elisa at Elisa Loves, who is quite fun and chatty herself but I would love to hear more. :)
2. Tiffany at Family at the Foot of the Cross, another inspirational blog for me.
3. Jamie Jo at Lord, Make Me a Saint, whose posts always remind me to be thankful and that we are not alone in this journey of motherhood.
4. Gardenia at My Little Flower, where her love for her little girl shines through in every post.
5. Cheryl at The Diary of a Sower, whose blog I have found to be useful in catechizing my children, and I would love to learn more about the woman behind the ideas. 

So, ladies, here are my questions to you! Elaborate as much or little as you desire. Answer if you will and have time. I would love to hear more, but never, ever feel obligated. God bless and take care!

~~Nicole

My 11 Questions

1. What is a favorite childhood memory?
2. Are you a cradle Catholic or did you join the Church later on in life?
3. What is your favorite prayer?
4. What is your favorite time of day?
5. What do you consider to be your best talent/gift?
6. Why do you blog?
7. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
8. If you could go anywhere, right now, where would you go?
9. Who is your favorite saint?
10. What is your favorite season/time of the year?
11. What are you most thankful for?