Follow our family's journey as we seek to nourish our souls with music and literature, good company, great cooking, time spent in nature, and always, the love of Christ especially through the sacraments of His Church.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Crowning of The Year

Oh, so much to share. So many titles I could have chosen! But this is a line from one of my favorite Christmas (Advent?) carols:

People Look East

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Christmas really is the crowning of the year! There are a thousand things I love about the late days of December - the hectic preparations that overcome you no matter how organized you thought you were; the beauty of Christmas night, heading out to church in the snow (if you're so lucky); the exhale of sitting down to dinner on Christmas Day knowing that everything is done at last; the lazy, sleepy day after.

This year, I meditated quite a bit on another line from the song above: Make your house as fair as you are able. Not as fair as the neighbors', or as fair as your mom's, or as fair as that magazine cover or that other blogger's photos! Able means: within your means, your capacity, your ability. People like me need to be reminded that sometimes it's fair enough. I am genetically programmed to over-do until I drop. Intellectually, I know this. With some effort, I can intentionally put the brakes on my need to execute every grand plan that my head can come up with. That's what I tried to do this year, and it helped me move beyond survival to actual enjoyment of both Advent and Christmas. Tasks were fit in around the needs of lots of little people, my own limitations, and finances. Some things got trimmed, others adapted. 

One thing that has helped me is to remember this is not the only Christmas we will ever celebrate. Some ideas can be used next year! Maybe some traditions could alternate years, like the snow globes that are still packed away upstairs because I never got them out, and the kids haven't remembered (yet). 

On the bright side, every single thing I ordered from Amazon on December 18th arrived by Christmas Eve. This is when technology is my friend! The kids were clean and dressed. Most decorations got put up. The cookies and treats I envisioned got made. Mostly. 

The speed bumps? The tree never did want to stand up in its place in the exact center of the window. So we propped it up against the counter and decorated as usual. Looks gorgeous. Not perfect. The kids love it. We didn't get to a few of the recipes on that list in my head. No one noticed. This is the dessert table from Christmas dinner at my mom's:

See what I mean? Genetically programmed! (Isn't it beautiful?)

What emerged as important was the time we spent in worship and thanksgiving, the time spent together as a family sharing the blessing of the children's joy, and the time celebrating with loved ones seen too seldom, sharing their joy. It was a wonderful, peaceful Christmas Day. (Mom's table, again).

We went to Christmas Eve Mass earlier than usual, a snow storm on the way. Once home, after the now-traditional stop at Walgreens for something we forgot, we made Tourtiere, the traditional French Canadian meat pie that Jeff and I both grew up with. I still had plenty of wrapping and baking to do that night. Even though they could not get to sleep before 11 pm or even later, the kids got up at 5:30 am. Jeff and I were still up! We rolled with it and had Christmas morning, since we knew no one was going back to sleep. Then we left them playing with their new toys and caught a few hours' sleep ourselves (with Molly) before cooking some more and heading out to be with family. 

It was such a treat to have a Sunday right after Christmas this year. It was the most blissful day of rest all year! Being together seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the feast of The Holy Family.

Our celebrating is a long way from over. My sister's birthday celebration is tomorrow. Then, family and friends are expected over here on New Year's Eve. We will probably be with family again sometime that weekend. Epiphany is also early again this year, the day after New Year's, and we celebrate that day as well. Honestly, I'm still in rest and recovery mode, while halfheartedly reassembling the house to be ready for New Year's Eve. I'm not sure how we will celebrate Epiphany yet! 

To take the last line from the song, it is all for Love: Love, the guest, is on the way. It's about Him, it's for Him. He is the reason for this joy, this labor, this togetherness! We are so thankful that He has come and has given us hope and a reason to celebrate. Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!

Blessings of this beautiful season to each of you reading... May Love fill your homes and hearts, too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Trial and Triumphs

How are your Christmas preparations coming? Predictably, we've had our ups and downs already - the days are growing short and there is still much to be done, both spiritually and materially.

Notably, we are way behind on our Jesse tree, and the kids have been watching too much TV. But our focus on good deeds is helping everyone to put forth some extra effort, always a joy to see.

Here's a peek at some of our recent activities, successes and failures!

We made snowflake cookies with blue frosting for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8:

(Benjamin has since had a much-needed haircut!)

We had early Christmas with the paternal grandparents last week. New Lego and K'NEX sets and books are keeping small hands and brains busy while Mom has so much to do! Definitely a win in my book.

Another Christmas gathering is scheduled for this Sunday at our house. I hope I can figure out what to do with the tree before then!

You can't exactly see from the picture, but two of the three feet broke off the stand, and the tree is leaning against the blinds. It can't stand up at all. We never even made it as far as ornaments! Getting a new tree isn't really an option, so we are trying to decide between a bucket of sand, or looking for a used tree at the Goodwill that we can swap out the stand with. (The bucket of sand sounds like more fun for the "chipmunks", don't you think?)

Needless to say, this is terribly frustrating for an impatient person like me. I have come to realize that I already despise tedious Christmas tasks, including fancy cookie baking and tree trimming. I know, Scrooge!!  Then when things go wrong, I am really not so much fun to be around. I am trying to keep the Christmas spirit by remembering that these are minor things which are supposed to add to our celebration, not define it. And I love the results so much that I will go through the aggravation to enjoy them later.

Fortunately, I have drowned my sorrows in the most decadent, easy pumpkin spice latte from Sarah. I finally broke down after weeks of eying her sidebar photo, and I bought the requisite holiday ice cream. In seconds I had something that rivaled the costly lattes available at those places we all know too well. Oh, soooo good!!

It was even better with a chocolate biscotti from the homeschool moms' cookie exchange this week. Happy sigh. I am trying to shut out the little voice in the back of my head, from a Mass reading on the first Sunday of Advent: "Make no provision for the desires of the flesh." Hmm. Still have to work on that one.

Now on the agenda: getting family photo, finishing Christmas cards, more baking, cooking and wrapping. Some new treats I am hoping to try are these darling meringue mushrooms that someone brought to the cookie exchange and some cereal clusters that I would write home about. Yum.

So those are the kinds of things keeping me from my blog these days... An ice storm is headed our way tonight and we are wondering if there will be power tomorrow. Every day an adventure! Hope the last week of Advent is going well for everyone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

St Nicholas Day Party

The St. Nick party last week was a success! We did have 23 kids and a total of 34 people in our house. It went amazingly well since there were plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied. We did 2 crafts: a color-your-own holy card with an image of St. Nicholas, printable here, and some foam ornaments that were simple even for little kids to put together.

I was thankful for my sister-in-law Katie supervising the crafts - she even cleaned up this mess afterward! Not a small feat for someone just about full-term with the newest member of our homeschool group.

Meanwhile, we finished setting out dinner in the kitchen (it was potluck).. You can see that some Dads were able to join us. Food, fun, and fellowship in the kitchen!

We had already made a nice dent in the dessert area by the time I took a picture...

...before we put on the St. Nicholas movie. The kids surprised us by relaxing long enough to actually watch the whole thing this year!

Then we played "St. Nicholas Chimney Toss" (inspired by Charlotte, here) with the kids grouped by age level. I had made a "chimney" out of a cardboard box, and the kids tossed in "bags of gold" in imitation of St. Nick  (see the moneybags on the table there?) The top scorers in each group won prizes.

I didn't get any action pictures since I was too busy running the game. But here I am with one of my favorite winners. Those are reindeer antlers on his head!

Finally, a large red sack appeared on the doorstep filled with treat bags for all the kids, a great finale to all the fun. A very good evening!

We just enjoyed relaxing weekend... now it's "real" St. Nicholas Day and the kids found their shoes stuffed with small treats and toys. Blessed Feast Day to all, and may St. Nicholas provide whatever it is you are needing today. God bless you, readers!