Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011

When I was in First Grade, I remember my teacher telling our class that after Christmas vacation we would be back in school in a new year.  She said, "we say goodbye to 1979 forever."  Her words left me feeling very sad - the idea that we say goodbye to something forever.  New Year's Eve still conjures some of those same feelings.  I'm not sure if it's because today is a day I take a moment to reflect on the year or if it's because I finally feel confident in writing the number 2011.  Either way, I say farewell to a wonderful year and say hello to a hope-filled one, whose potential is boundless.

As I reflect on 2011, family and traveling is what stands out the most to me.  Sweet Potato made his First Communion, Monkey Toes and I renewed our wedding vows for our 10 year anniversary, we gathered for 9 days to pray and celebrate the one year anniversary of Milly's passing into new life.  We witnessed the beauty and grace of the adoption of Peanut Butter, as well as his baptism.  We camped at Higher Ground Music Festival.  We traveled to California for a reunion and I met family I had never met before.  We experienced the "magic" of Disneyland.  We traveled to Canada for my niece's wedding.  We were blessed to spend all of  the holidays with our families and round out the year of celebrating without two of our loved ones (which I believe they were celebrating with us in spirit).  Yeah, 2011 was a pretty great year. 

So far on our calendar for 2012, Honey Bunches will be making his First Communion on April 29th.  Since Higher Ground has disbanded, we have our tickets for Joyful Noise in June (Toby Mac, Go Fish and Mandisa - I may be more excited than my kids!).  We will have a Kindergartner, a 2nd grader, 3rd grader and 4th grader in the house.  There are a few other surprises on the horizon that I will share as their time draws nearer.  No major travel plans in the making, but then again, home is my favorite place.

Tonight, we will celebrate as we have the last 5 years.  We'll go to mass and come home to dinner.  We have sparkling juice chilled for the kids (they get to drink out of real champagne flutes), lots of snacks, board games, and silliness.  We all camp out in the living room with sleeping bags and try to stay awake to watch the ball drop.  It is the one night of the year that bedtime is not enforced.  We have a theme of balls tonight - cheese balls, meat balls, popcorn balls, fondue (o.k. not a ball, but we will be dipping round things into it).  It should be a fun night. 

Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2012 be a year of grateful and joyous hearts.  God's blessings to you!
The kids enjoying the snow  - finally a little snowfall in 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Our household and extended family had a lovely Christmas celebration.  We shared many laughs, ate lots of delicious food (yep - I pretty much drank my weight in Egg Nog), and enjoyed the thoughtful gifts that were exchanged.  We attended Mass, took long naps, stayed up late and admired all the twinkling Christmas lights around our neighborhood.  The only thing that would have made the weekend a little better is to have had a little snow.  It just seems strange to have bare ground this late in the season.

Although the actual Feast Day of Christmas has past, the Christmas Season lasts for twelve days, until the Feast of The Epiphany.  This is one more reason why we wait to decorate our home, because we keep our decor up until the Season is over.  Here is the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  I enjoy reading it each year.  I posted this last Christmas and think it's worth sharing again.  Enjoy!

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS  Here is the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas. In England between 1558 & 1829 it was a crime just to be a Catholic. Even a scrap of paper with Catholic teaching written on it could have dire consequences. Catholics devised “catechism songs” with nonsense lyrics having a hidden symbolic meaning to teach the faith to their children. This is one of them.  The Twelve Days are the days between Christmas and the Epiphany, Jan. 6. The True Love in the song refers to God; the “me” who receives the presents is the baptized Catholic. And here are the gifts:  The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the tree of the cross. The mother partridge, when her brood is threatened by a predator, will pretend injury to draw attention away from her helpless chicks. The partridge also recalls Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem, & all who ignore his gift of salvation: “Jerusalem how often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not!” Two turtle doves are the Old & New Testaments of the Bible. Three French hens represent the Trinity, three persons (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) in one God, as well as the theological virtues of faith, hope, & charity. Four calling birds are the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.  Five golden rings are the first five books of the Old Testament. Six geese a-laying recall the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming bring to mind (a) the seven sacraments; (b) the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; (c) the seven corporal & seven spiritual works of mercy. Eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, while ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments. Eleven pipers piping are the eleven apostles (excluding Judas) who proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. Twelve drummers drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed. As you sing The Twelve Days of Christmas during this holy season, remember its story. And teach its meaning to your children or share it with your friends.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Egg Nog

Soon after Monkey Toes and I began dating, I realized a stark difference between us:  I love Egg Nog and he does not.  I was raised in a family who boldly proclaims that much of our anticipation of the holidays is due to our favorite creamy and delicious holiday Egg Nog beverage.  I tease you not!  Growing up, a special place was reserved for Egg Nog.  We had a charming, built-in oak hutch in our kitchen.  My mom would nestle the crystal punch bowl within greenery and lights.  We awaited Christmas Eve until that beautiful bowl would be filled with Egg Nog and dallops of real whipped cream.  Once ladled into our cups, we would add just a pinch of nutmeg.  Perfection. 

The first Christmas I celebrated with Monkey and his family, I asked his mom what I could bring to the celebration.  She said I didn't need to bring anything.  So I offered, "Then I'll bring the Egg Nog."  I remember her saying, "umm (long pause) o.k."  I was unsure about this exchange and so I asked Monkey if I had said something wrong.  He just replied, "Egg Nog is gross.  No one in my family drinks it."  Heaven help me!

Here is the scenario in my family.  My sister hosts our family Christmas.  She now has mom's punch bowl, which sits on a section of granite counter top for our celebration.  It has the greenery and lights surrounding it, with the cups and the little nutmeg shaker close by.  Then, we gather around it and drink.  You'll hear at least a couple of us say (after our second glassful) "I probably shouldn't have anymore."  But then again, we remember it's Christmas and we won't have this treat for another 365 days.  So we merrily drink our way to the bottom of the bowl with a satisfying whipped cream smile to boot. 

Merry Christmas to all of my fellow Egg Noggers!

Our Christmas Playlist

2011 Top Favorite Christmas Songs in Our Household

Monkey Toes:  Christmas Time (Charlie Brown)

Me:  Silent Night & Silver Bells

Sweet Potato: Jingle Bell Rock

Honey Bunches:  Feliz Navidad

Gummi Bear:  Joy To The World

Cucumber:  Last Christmas (her favorite version is by Wham!)

Sweet Pea:  Away in a Manger   

Pumpkin:  Jingle Bells

A list as diverse and as lovely as those who enjoy to belt out the lyrics whenever we hear them played.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And the Music Plays On

Gummi Bear has been taking piano lessons since September and tonight was her first recital.  Her performance was beautiful and I could not be more proud.  Afterwards, I asked her how it felt to play in front of a lot of people and she said, "I was a little scared."  I couldn't tell.  I just kept thinking that my little girl is growing up. 

I took piano lessons for 8 years, beginning when I was in 4th grade.  My parents had "rescued" a baby grand piano and signed me up for lessons.  I loved it, but after 3 years, I decided I wanted to quit.  I shared my thoughts with my mother, who very wisely responded, "You can quit, but then you have to tell your teacher yourself."  It took me 5 years to muster up enough confidence to tell my teacher I wasn't going to continue.  Recitals were very difficult for me, as I was extremely nervous to have to perform in front of others.   So to see my daughter play tonight, well, my heart was brimming.  My hope is that she will continue to love to play and want to share that gift with others.

Friday, December 16, 2011


As the third week of Advent draws to a close, our Advent wreath and creche are still the focus in our home.  We've decided that we will put up our tree on the 4th and final Sunday of Advent.  The kids are excited, to say the least.

It was just a few years ago that I was a mad-woman during this season.  I baked 13 varieties of cookies and sent out a bazillion Christmas cards.  My house was cleaned and decorated, presents wrapped and menus planned.  The only thing missing - true joy.  Although everything looked perfect from the outside, I wasn't joyful in my tasks.  I was more worried about being the perfect homemaker than being present to my family and the season.  Last Sunday, our priest during his homily talked about how Satan loves this time of year.  It's so easy for him to move in and push Christ out in all of the chaos and busyness that we allow ourselves to get caught up in.  How true.  So this year, I made a conscience effort to not get overwhelmed by the different elements of the season.  I baked one kind of cookie for an exchange - something that I'm doing more for social reasons than to have a plate of cookies.  I wrote a Christmas letter that has yet to be sent out, and not one present has been purchased as of today.  I'm not totally reformed, as I do have a plan for next week, but everything has been simplified, which equates a happier, more loving home.

This morning I heard on the radio a woman talking about Mary's Yes to God's call.  Saying yes to things is important, however, learning to say NO is also valuable.  She shared that by saying NO we are preserving our YES to those things we are already committed to.  For me, simplifying my life means that I am saying yes to my faith and my family.

So as the final week before Christmas approaches, I hope everyone allows themselves time to breath, to relax, to spend more time in prayer, doing so with a joyful spirit.

P.S.  I'm not sure how appropriate this story is for sharing, but what the heck.  Last night as I was changing Pumpkin's diaper she said, "my bellybutton butt hurts."  I said, "your belly button is on your belly."  She replied, "then my butt button hurts!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Heavenly Hosts

I think I have catechetically failed my child (not to mention he's a Packers Fan in Vikings Land).

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Gift of Life

My Dad was an organ donor.  Yesterday, my mom received a phone call from the Donor Center, letting her know that 61 surgeries in 7 states across the U.S. have been performed using tissue, bone, ligaments, etc. from my Dad.  As she shared this news with my siblings and I, we were moved by the mere miracle that even in death, my Dad continues to help others.  I am proud of my Dad for being a donor.  I am proud of my Mom for honoring his wishes.  I am thankful for the medical world which can perform these procedures to enhance the quality of lives.  I am humbled knowing that Dad not only lives on in our hearts, but also through those who have never met him, yet have benefited from his generosity.  Proof, once more, of the dignity of human life in all of its stages.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare Ye The Way

Whenever I hear these words, the song from GodSpell immediately fills my mind.  And so it was this morning at Mass, the second Sunday of Advent, that these words were spoken and the song began playing in my head.  I'm still singing it as I drink my coffee and type this post.
Each day during Advent, our family reflects on the question, "How are we preparing our hearts for the Lord?"   To help us, we have borrowed the following activity from the website, catholicicing.  We have put up our Manger, but left it empty.  The Baby Jesus figure is attached to his crib, so the kids and I constructed our own for this activity.  We used an oatmeal container, cut it in half, and painted it.

Each evening after Family Prayer, the kids tell us the good things they did that day (helping someone, doing a kind deed, saying something thoughtful, etc.)  For each good act, they place a piece of straw in the crib.  The goal is to have a crib for Jesus (and their hearts), well prepared by Christmas. 

I catch my kids looking for ways to earn their straw.  Yesterday, Sweet Potato poured Gummi Bear's cereal at breakfast (and then quietly asked me if that task was straw worthy).  Honey Bunches began his chores without being reminded.  Cucumber helped her little sisters get dressed.  Gummi volunteered to help me make dinner.  Sweet Pea and Pumpkin - well, they're a little young to grasp this concept, but when they see their siblings do good, they want to do good too. 

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
                                                                Isaiah 40

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Child's Philosophy

The conversation on the way to school today:

Sweet Potato:  Did you know that reindeer don't live at the North Pole?  They live in Europe and Northern Asia.

Me:  Really?  (I have no idea if this is correct information or not)

Gummi Bear:  Then how does Santa get them to the North Pole?

Sweet Potato:  Well Santa doesn't actually live at the North Pole.  Nothing can live at the North Pole.  I think he vacations until Christmas and then they all get together up there.

Honey Bunches:  Yeah 'cause Santa is a big guy and if he lived at the North Pole he wouldn't have anything to eat and then he'd just be a skinny guy and Santa can't be a skinny guy.

Gummi Bear:  Yeah.

Makes sense to me.