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?