Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Mommy Card

As I spend my mornings this week in the waiting room during our son's occupational therapy "camp" one of the other moms suggested getting together for a weekly playdate to practice the skills the boys are learning. Everyone heartily assented and next followed an exchange of cards...not business cards per se, but what I am calling "Mommy Cards". I was unaware of this phenomena...printing business-like cards with your name, phone number, email, to easily share contact information. Brilliant! No more searching for scraps of paper while balancing a baby and your toddler bites through the pen spilling ink everywhere. I was the only one empty handed. Maybe I'm just behind the times.

My book club is reading Jane Austen this month and the mommy card exchange reminded me vaguely of the calling cards that ladies used to leave. There are tons of free business card templates online....I think I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy 6th Day of Christmas!

I am in love with the idea of Christmastide. To rejoice in Christmas into the new year is fantastic. I am rescued from dismal post-Christmas days and have reason to continue rejoicing.

Back when I was growing up, my family relished the Christmas holiday as we rejoiced in the birth of our Savior. All the anticipation and excitement culminated in the climactical Christmas celebration, ending in a single day. But the let-down the day after was always excruciating, especially for a young child. It wasn't that Christmastide was forgotten, just overlooked.

Which is why I cherish the Church and its traditions and seasons. Our tree is still up; the candles are still lit; Christ is here and exalted. We are relishing Christmas. Alleluia, alleluia!

Thanks to our dear Princeton friend, J, who enlightened me today on the symbolism in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". You may learn a thing or two as well.
1. Partridge in a Pear Tree: Christ

2. Two Turtle Doves: Old and New Testament

3. Three French Hens: the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love

4. Four Calling Birds: the four Gospels

5. Five Golden Rings: the five books of the Torah in the Old Testament

6. Six Geese A-Laying: the six days of Creation

7. Seven Swans A-Swimming: the gifts of the Holy Spirit, e.g., ministry, prophecy, exhortation, teaching, compassion, giving, leading AND the seven sacraments (can’t forget them!)

8. Eight Maids A-Milking: the Beatitudes

9. Nine Ladies Dancing: the fruit of the Holy Spirit, e.g., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

10. Ten Lords A-Leaping: the ten commandments

11. Eleven Pipers Piping: the eleven faithful Apostles

12. Twelve Drummers Drumming: the twelve tenants of faith found in the Apostles Creed

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Here are our shepherds and angels. We are missing the baby J, he was napping!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Holy Night

Let us love the Child of Bethlehem. Come souls and love a God who has become a Child, poor and so lovable, in need of our tender love, who has come down from heaven to give Himself entirely to you. If we but ask for pardon and salvation, He has come to pardon us and to save us.

-- St. Francis of Assisi

Merry Christmas from our families to yours.

May the peace and joy of the birth of Christ be with you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sometimes it takes a blizzard

All of the pre-Christmas madness came to a grinding halt this weekend as the northeast, and particularly the Philadelphia area, was paralyzed by a massive blizzard. We received 23 inches of snow--2 feet!!!--on Saturday, and the main roads in town are still a mess. (The above photos were taken after only 1 foot fell). The snow started falling at 3am on Saturday, and didn't stop until 4am on Sunday morning. That's 25 hours of snow. Mr. Red went out to shovel 4 times, and thanks to his efforts we were able to dig our car out and head to Mass last night (although I'm still doubting the wisdom of our decision to drive on the roads last night).

Prior to the snow, we had a busy weekend planned. Last minute Christmas errands, a haircut, a Christmas show, two family Christmas parties, and pre-Christmas prep for pies, cakes, and cookies. Thanks to the snow, everything was cancelled, and we spent our weekend baking, cleaning, shoveling, playing in the snow, and RELAXING! It was wonderful. A forced break to really soak in these last days of Advent was just what our family needed.

Apparently, we were not alone in our sentiments. On Saturday night, our across the street neighbors hosted their annual Christmas party. We have never been able to attend due to the craziness of the season. With the poor weather, our other plans were cancelled, and so we walked across the street for a great and relaxing time with our neighbors. I met many new friends in town, and every new conversation brought the same sentiment of joy regarding the snow and the forced break during this busy season. One neighbor spent the day wrapping, another baking, but everyone enjoyed listening to Christmas music, staying at home, and spending time with their families. The party was great, I'm sure in part because of the blizzard.

Last night Mr. Red and I had a talk about what we could do to decrease the madness and simplify our future Advent seasons. We can't always count on a blizzard to slow things down, but there are many activities and traditions we can choose to exclude from our Advent season that will help us attain peace and a prayer filled heart leading up to Christmas Day. This year we have a newborn baby, so the typical pre-Christmas obligations are little more onerous than usual, but even on a good year, we run ourselves ragged with Christmas preparations.

In the past, we have refrained from adopting some new traditions like celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas. It just isn't possible to celebrate every feast, or emphasize every tradition in our home. And as much as I'd like to make a big deal out of the Feast of St. Lucy, something has to give or we will just be tailgating our way to Christmas. As a family, we have to make some hard choices. Packing everything in, every year, just isn't possible without going insane!

And so on a practical level, Mr. Red and I decided not to get each other gifts at Christmas time. We will focus on birthdays instead, as that time of year isn't already full of other obligations. In the future, we may be making a move in this direction with Godchildren, and maybe even some of our nieces and nephews. We will also consider doing certain traditions on an every other year basis. It is often hard for me to say no to just one more Christmas obligation, but each gift, each activity, and each party adds to the complexity of the season, and before you know it, we need a blizzard to slow us down and give us the time to really appreciate this special and holy time of preparation for the birth of our Savior.

What have our readers done to simplify this holy time of year? What activities or traditions have you chosen to forgo?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paper Plate Angel

A happy and blessed 4th Sunday of Advent to all of you!

As we prepare our hearts and homes for Jesus' birth in just a few days, this could be a fun craft to do with our children. We will be using our paper plate angel as our tree topper, since I have once again failed to procure a proper tree topper for our family's tree :) I have such trouble committing to buying a tree topper because when I do, I would like it to be the one that our family keeps forever. I have fond memories of our beautiful angel tree topper as a child and haven't found anything quite like it yet. So, for yet another year, we will be going the home-made route! Here is the link to this project:

If you have any other ideas for home-made tree -toppers that are easy to make, please pass them on - I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use some ideas!

God bless!

*By the way, Mary Alice, since we couldn't comment on your post below, let me just say that you have a beautiful family and it certainly looks like you're taking full advantage of the season of Advent!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Blessed Mother

She did not waver when called upon by an angel of God.
She endured the scorn of pregnancy before marriage.
She was committed and joyful.

She rode on a donkey when over nine months pregnant.
She rode for hundreds of miles.
She labored in straw.
She gave birth next to livestock.

She relished our Lord.
She cared for his every first need.
She exalted Him and allowed for others to do the same.
She protected Him.
She brought Him up to be the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and humblest of servants.

She was Mary, Christ's mother; our mother.
Thank you, Mary, for showing us the way to Christ.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brown Bear's Wonderful Secret

One wintry evening Brown Bear
came rushing out of the woods.
The big brown bear smiled. "I have a secret!"
"It's wonderful! It's fantastic! It's shout-out-loud
and jump-for-joy great!"

"What is it?" asked Fox.
"What is this secret that's so great?
Can you eat it?"

"No! No!" said Brown Bear impatiently.
"You wouldn't want to eat it! You'd want to snuffle
and nuzzle it. You'd want to lick it all over from
the top to the bottom and then some more!"

..."My secret isn't cold. Although you might want to wrap
it up warm and hold onto it forever."

..."My secret cannot fly. But I will
throw it up in the air, and when it sails down I'll catch it
in my big strong arms and never let it go."

..."Oh, I'll tuck it under my fur all right." said Brown Bear.
"Don't you worry about that. I'll tuck it, but I'll take it out every
day and just look and look at it because
I won't be able to believe my luck!"

..."It's not just wonderful," said Brown Bear.
"It's FABULOUS. It's so marvelous and magical...
it's miraculous, even..."

The Gasperini-Ville Census came and went the other day and found a little something.

A quite wonderful little something. A 13-week-old secret little something.
And guess who can't wait to hold it in her arms come June? (~June 23rd to be exact!)
B-mama Bear!!!

I've been holding out on you all a little while and it feels good to finally come clean!! :)
Thanks for rejoicing with us!

Cookies for the Holy Family

If you're looking to start a new Christmas Eve tradition in your home, this tidbit might be of interest to you.

According to this month's Magnificat, the Irish tradition on Christmas Eve involved families preparing a meal for the Holy Family and setting the table with three place settings for them. Afterward, they left the doors unlocked or even wide open and put more wood on the hearth, so the Holy Family would have a place to rest and bless their home. This tradition was especially important to the Irish during the persecution when priests were not allowed to say Mass and Catholics were not able to receive the sacraments except in secret. They placed a candle in the windows of their home to signify to the priests that they were Catholic and that the priest could come in and say Holy Mass. It is said that on Christmas Eve special graces came to them and to all of us.

Today, families in Ireland have simplified the tradition by leaving a tray of cookies and fruit for the Holy Family with a set table of three plates for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Since most of us grew up with setting a plate of cookies for Santa Claus, perhaps this is a great way to replace that tradition with one centered on Christ!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

XMas and Christmas

Despite all efforts to avoid the Christmas rush during Advent, it seems that each year I let materialistic concerns--from getting my Christmas cards mailed by a certain date to finding the perfect gift for a niece or nephew--get in the way of what should otherwise be a time to spiritually prepare for the coming of Christ. Mothers have a lot of necessary preparations to do during Advent, but we all must fight against consumerism and other cultural pressures to keep Christ the center of all we do during our Advent preparations. And it is with this in mind that I read this entertaining piece by C.S. Lewis. I laughed out loud. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Memberships and Classes: A Great Idea for Christmas Gifts

As I sit down to write this post, I am aware that I have some boxes sitting in the front hallway, waiting to be wrapped and hidden before my 5 year-old gets home from school and my 2 year-old wakes up from her nap :) We have been receiving Christmas gifts in the mail for a couple of weeks now - since we don't have any family in town, all gifts need to be shipped. Don't get me wrong, it's not like we have 5 boxes arriving daily, just a couple here and there. But since we lack extra storage space, we're having to get creative with our wrapping and hiding techniques :) My husband is a much better wrapper than I, so thankfully he has pretty much taken over this job. Our children will be delighted with their gifts on Christmas day and I am very grateful for everyone who has been generous enough to send us a gift!

I did want to mention an alternative to tangible gifts, though, since a few friends have been asking recently what I tell my family members when they ask for gift ideas for the kids. Oftentimes, for birthdays and Christmas, I have suggested a membership to a museum or some contribution towards a class that our children would enjoy. For example, we have received memberships to the children's museum and zoo in the past, as well as Gymboree classes, swimming lessons, and an after-school science class. These have all been very much enjoyed by our kids, and I make sure to remind them several times of who has given this to them as a gift. I also send a thank you note with a picture of my child enjoying the activity, so that it's more tangible to the gift giver.

So, while there is a certain amount of joy and delight that comes from unwrapping gifts on Christmas day, this can be an alternative for the relative that is out of gift ideas!

God bless all of you in your Advent journeys!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Circle of Life

We spend the majority of our time and space on this blog discussing the inception of life-- the baby days, preschool days etc.-- however, this Christmas we are near my 92-year-old grandmother, which has provided me the opportunity to think about life at the other end of the spectrum.

My parents are hosting my three young children and I at their home in San Diego while our Daddy is deployed this holiday season. They live in a cottagey home that is located several blocks away from the Assisted Living Facility in which my grandmother lives. The decision as to whether or not my grandmother needed to be moved into a near-nursing-home-type-thing was an emotional one in the family, but that is not of immediate relevance to this post. I feel that my job, in this less than ideal situation of a woman with failing mental and physical faculties, is to foster as much of a relationship as I can between her and the three great grandchildren that I have brought to town.

So far we have been here for three days, and have visited her twice. My goal was to go every day, but inclement weather sometimes makes it more difficult. We traipse into her small room every afternoon not knowing what to expect. I am filled with complicated adult emotions about whether GeeGee will call my children by the right names or have her blouse buttoned in order to avoid embarrassment. But let me tell you what I learned very quickly - my three children have none of this on their mind. They are thrilled to visit her. Eldest Daughter enjoys the opportunity to write GeeGee notes on her whiteboard, since she has been deaf for the last decade. Middle 2-year-old Boy loves to show off his light-up sneakers and even operate GeeGee's electric chair if no one is paying attention. New Little Guy is happy to be rescued from his plastic bucket and placed into warm, adoring arms, even if we aren't sure she knows who the baby is or from whence he came to be placed in her arms. My three kids explode onto the scene in those hallways full of wheelchairs and walkers, and the eyes glow.

I have spent a great deal of time philosophizing on the meaning of life at its end. We, as Catholics, are committed to defending life from conception until natural death - but things get muddled at either end. Babies are easier to defend and go "ga-ga" over than a woman who cannot control her bodily functions and spends her days going in and out of sleep in front of a television. Nonetheless, my children have, once again, taught me to see with the eyes of a child. This is a soul who prays for all of us. She spends several hours each morning in prayer - and if those prayers are muddled on their way up to Heaven, God sorts them out before they even arrive. Beyond her spiritual life, her remaining time on Earth is teaching my children the value of human connection. Her intrinsic value is obvious to all three of them and they relish the gleam they inspire in her eyes by their mere presence.

I pray that your Christmas Season will be blessed with the love of an old earthly soul and that your children will have the opportunity to bestow the same love on an elderly member of your family - even if it has to be by mail or telephone.

Celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe Today

Over the years since my marriage on the Feast of St. Juan Diego, I have developed a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. In New York, I went to her feast mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral one year and it was amazing, lots of people wore shirts or tilmas with her image, there were roses everywhere, and it was a joy to see a busy, secular city, full of lively prayer processions.

Head on over to paperdali and download these terrific OLG and Juan Diego coloring pages, complete with a seperate tilma to color, and your children can do a little play of Our Lady's appearance to this humble Mexican Indian. (hat tip O Night Divine)

Read the Tomie de Paola book, The Lady of Guadalupe, or watch the CCC movie about St. Juan Diego.

And, who needs an excuse for Mexican food for dinner? We will be having enchiladas, followed by cinnamon cookies and hot chocolate, while we trim our tree, which we (and by we I mean my husband) cut down today at a farm down the street from our home!

If you don't get to this today, do a Posada (christmas play) later in the week -- there are paper dolls available for that, too, and have your Mexican food then!

Friday, December 11, 2009

On St. Nicholas and Santa

The comments from the last post overwhelmingly voiced a desire to continue the Santa discussion.

I have recently come to realize that this is a more sensitive topic than I thought. I brought it up at my book club last week, the day that I learned my son had told his class Santa was dead and in Heaven. I think I have been a bit naive about the subject, thinking it not so big of a deal. Because of our son's intolerance for large crowds and noise, we tend to stay closer to home at this young age and many of our friends in the area do not do Santa. But, by virtue of his participation in his class, Santa has made his way into our lives. Below my post, you will see Red's family tradition, which does incorporate Santa.

Because of my oldest son's fierce love for truth and justice, I was afraid that telling him Santa wasn't real, even thought other kids believed, would spur him on to a crusade of telling the truth about Santa. So I thought that by downplaying, noting that some people called St. Nicholas Santa Claus, we would gloss over the differences and everyone would be happy. I was wrong. Of course, the problem is that Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are not the same in today's world and I have since told him that some people like to pretend that Santa lives at the North Pole, has flying reindeer etc. I'm not so concerned with the precise historical metamorphosis of St. Nicholas into Santa. But the cartoon Santa with the flying reindeer and toy workshop is not exactly the same at the Bishop of Myra who shared from his own wealth and gave his life in service to the Church.

Let me be clear. I don't hate Santa. I don't think that doing Santa is wrong or bad or misguided. Santa is not an issue of moral absolutes. I do think Santa can be done in a way that does not lose the true meaning of Christmas. We don't forgo Santa as a pious, holier-than-thou act. We don't forgo Santa just because he is secular. Many things we do during the Advent and Christmas season are not overtly religious, but add to the specialness of the season. I am not a theologian or a historian. Just a mom trying to navigate culture, faith and family.

Here are some of the reasons that we do not do Santa, some paraphrased from the discussion our book club had on the subject:

1. We love fantasy. I believe it plays an important role in a child's development emotionally, morally and spiritually. However, I do believe there is a difference between entering into a fairy tale world and having an imaginary character come down your chimney and into your home. For our son with sensory issues there must be a very sharp line between reality and fantasy. I have heard several stories, and some mentioned in the comments, that kids are afraid of a strange man coming into their home at night. This is not an issue with our second son, so I think it depends on the temperament of each child. For our oldest son to feel safe, we must suspend reality and enter into an imaginative world. Knowing that it is pretend allows us the freedom to be imaginative without fear. I am asked 14 times a day if things from Curious George to our mailman are pretend and don't think that all young children are comfortable with a vague understanding or what is and is not real. I don't intend for this to turn into a discussion of the nature of fairy tales and fantasy, just trying to make a distinction.

2. In order to convince our son that Santa was real we would have to lie or come up with an insanely outlandish story to explain everything at the age of 3. A cursory "Santa has some helpers..." would not do the trick in our home. I would be peppered with questions incessantly and Dash would probably insist on trying to go down the chimney himself. When he asked me if Santa was pretend, I told him yes, but that we don't need to tell other kids that. Honestly, Dash is not yet of the age of reason and a stickler for truth and I am afraid that he may tell another child who believes in Santa that Santa is not real, but I can't lie about it. But, after explaining that he is a pretend character, Dash seemed happier to play along with everything, knowing it is all a story. It is not the fact that Santa is secular that makes me is having to lie about it. Again, our second son would swallow the Santa tale with a smile on his face and ask no questions. I am okay with pretend characters as long as we call a spade a spade.

3. Santa adds to the consumerism of the Christmas season. The Christmas shopping season that begins in August and ends December 24 is outrageous and over the top. Buy, buy, buy, Get, get get. Questions about Christmas revolve around, "What did you ask Santa for Christmas?" Though, during our discussion, one mother brought up how she likes doing Santa because it allows them to be super generous to their kids without blowing their "frugal facade."

4. I do think that a sense of magic and the miraculous can spur a child on to a deeper understanding of things unseen. However, if a parent has been lying to a child about Santa, then would they not call into question other truths about God and the saints that are being taught? I remember being totally scandalized to learn that Santa was not real. I was riding home from school in the way back seat of a station wagon and Diana and Molly told me that Santa wasn't real. I guarantee you I would not remember those names were it not for that awful day. There are many real miracles in addition to, or course, the Incarnation, to elevate a child's sense of the divine. My children never tire of hearing the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe all year round.

Why we celebrate St. Nicholas on December 6:

1. It is a feast in the liturgical year. Even though many legends surround what good works the Bishop of Myra did or did not perform, the Church in her wisdom has declared December 6 a day to honor and remember St. Nicholas.

2. Celebrating the lives of the saints is a great way to teach moral lessons. Ours focuses heavily on sharing and generosity, especially with respect to the poor, which ties in very well with the Advent theme of preparation. We can prepare to welcome to baby Jesus into our hearts and homes when we are generous and detached. We usually purchase and wrap our angel tree gifts and try to give some of our extraneous toys/possessions away during this week when we read about St. Nicholas and bake our Speculatius.

3. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, an intercessor and a friend in Heaven.

4. December 25 is Jesus' birthday. We exchange family presents on December 25th in honor of Jesus' birthday and with the other side of the family on January 6, Epiphany, but the focus of the day is celebrating Jesus' birthday. I don't really remember the boys' reactions to opening presents last year, but I do remember them running around to all our nativity scenes to add, finally, baby Jesus. We bake a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

5. Christmas morning is magical whether or not you do Santa. We enjoy a warm breakfast and hot chocolate, attend mass, sing Christmas carols and share gifts as a family. Joy exudes from each well-prepared heart as we give Jesus the gift our ourself, striving, however imperfectly, for holiness.

A different view from Red:

When I was a young girl, the magic and mystery surrounding Santa Claus was always a special part of Christmas morning. Thanks to my grandparents, both of my parents had strong memories of Santa from their youth, and it was with great joy that they passed that tradition on to me and my siblings.

When I was in first grade, my neighbor and best friend was the daughter of the local baptist pastor. Their family didn't do Santa, and, in fact, they vehemently opposed having Santa as a part of the Christmas tradition. One day, my friend proudly told me that Santa was a lie. I was quite disappointed (and my mother was very irritated!), and I wished my friend hadn't taken it upon herself to end the childhood magic my parents had worked so hard to create. I do remember, however, that I wasn't shocked at the news. I was at the age where I was questioning certain things about Santa (the wrapping paper was a big tip-off for me), but I desperately wanted to believe. I was going to find out sooner or later, but the manner in which my friend broke the news was a sad memory. Fortunately, I have used this memory to form my own approach to Santa with my children.

First, I think it goes without saying that every family is going to have their own Christmas traditions. Extended family situations can get complicated, so even the best intentions for certain family celebrations may be altered to appease disapproving grandparents. In our case, we have found Santa almost impossible to avoid, particularly when it comes to my own extended family and even our local parish! Family Christmas traditions are such great fun, so I think it is important to consider (but not cater to) the feelings of grandparents and extended family members. If we had ditched Santa completely, making a strong break from the way my parents celebrated Christmas with me, and the way their parents celebrated Christmas with them, it would be rather harsh. In addition, if all my siblings and their young ones are celebrating and including Santa, it gets complicated to have our family not participate.

I found great joy believing in Santa as a child, and I do want my children to experience some of that joy. I do think that the magic of Santa helped me to embrace the magic and mystery of my Catholic faith. At the same time, however, I want to avoid my children having a moment like the one I had with my baptist friend. So I have instituted the following guidelines for Santa:

1. We make it very clear that Christmas is about Jesus, and the character of Santa exists because Jesus is so special that he wants all of us to have gifts on his birthday. Our children get three gifts because that is what Jesus received from the 3 wise kings.

2. I do not lie to my children. We read books about Santa, and we talk about the story of Santa. We explain that St. Nicholas was a real person, a Saint, who lived and served the poor. Santa Claus is a modern character in the spirit of St. Nicholas. Santa is like Elmo. I read books about Elmo and we talk about Elmo--and we even go to Sesame Place where Elmo "lives." I don't feel the need to explain that Elmo is really just a weird man wearing a big suit. At some point, this will become obvious, or my kids may ask, and then I will explain fully that Elmo is just pretend and what they see is really just a man in a suit. I do not tell my children that Santa is coming to our house and bringing them presents. I do say, "there will be presents under the tree on Christmas morning" and my kids let me know that Santa will put them there! Last year Gianna asked me if Santa was dead (similar to the conversation Texas Mommy had with Dash). I went so far as to tell her that Santa was a character like Elmo, whereas St. Nicholas was a real person. I thought she understood, but immediately afterward she asked how Santa would get into our house because we don't have a chimney! The line between real and make-believe is very faint for a young child, and I think as long as that line is faint, it is great to pretend in regards to Santa. Once the line starts to make more sense, I think the truth is important. I do think that belief in things like Santa, and fantasy in general, helps lay the foundation for a lifelong belief in God. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out--belief in God is belief in the ultimate mystery.

3. Santa is not a big part of our Christmas celebration. We do not go out of our way to "visit" Santa. We do not write him letters asking for things (I have a general aversion to children getting greedy at Christmas). We do not leave cookies for Santa. We do not sign the gifts from Santa, rather, certain gifts are from mom and dad while others have no tag. Not doing some of these things tones it down a bit, and helps to keep us focused on Christ. I have found it to be a nice balance and it helps us to avoid the materialistic nature of Santa. The kids know about and believe in the tradition of Santa, but it isn't overwhelming.

4. When a child is asking questions and the line between pretend and make believe is gaining clarity, I plan to tell them the truth about Santa, and then solicit their help in pretending for the younger children. I will also share with them the importance of respect, and that they should never go about and tell other children that Santa is pretend or a lie--this is both mean and disrespectful of the parenting choices of other people. The age at which we plan to have this conversation with our children depends upon their individual personalities. Some kids may want to outgrow their fantasy world at the age of 6, while other children may be 8 or 9 before they start to figure it all out. I have head of quite a few kids who never even need to talk to mom and dad about Santa, but instead just play right along for the benefit of the younger ones--and maybe even mom and dad!

4. We do not celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. It is impossible to celebrate every feast of the church in our home, and to be honest, with the already hectic nature of Advent, St. Nicholas just doesn't make our list. Each family has to choose some feast days to recognize and others to let go. At present, we haven't felt a strong desire to foster this devotion, but I think it is great that Texas Mommy and some of the other builders celebrate this feast in such a special way.

I hesitate to state the obvious, but please keep all comments civil and refrain from personal attacks!! I now realize that this is a sensitive topic. Of course, we can be very emotional about wanting our children to experience joy and excitement during this time of year. I pray that this post has not put anyone on the defensive. If it has, please email me separately.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa Scandal

Our son recently began participating in a preschool class for a few special little guys. At our initial meeting with the teacher, she asked me if we "did Santa" since Christmas was coming up since they were planning some Santa crafts. I told her that, while we didn't really do Santa, we did celebrate St. Nicholas, who leaves little presents at our home on December 6th.

To prepare our son for "Santa" I simply told him that some people in America call Saint Nicholas Santa Claus (we noted how similar they sounded) and that sometimes they didn't get gifts on St. Nicholas day.

When I dropped him off last week, his teacher leaned into my car and told me the kids were talking about how Santa lives at the North Pole. Dash corrected them immediately announcing,

"Santa doesn't live at the North Pole. Santa's dead. He's in Heaven now."

She told me in all her years of teaching she had never heard that! Seeing my horrified look that my son had just unintentionally scandalized 4 of the sweetest little kids, she assured me that she changed the subject immediately and no one really understood what he was talking about!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Need For A Savior

Today it was Mama vs. the Christmas Decorations.
And I bet you can guess who won.

I was almost victorious. I really was.

If you were to drive by our home tonight, you would "ooh" and "ahh" over the lights and bows and wreaths and candles in the windows. (And even if you didn't, you would humor me and offer them anyway! You're so nice.)

You would enjoy our Advent wreath sitting on the kitchen table with shining candles (slightly lop-sided from being stored in the hot attic, but since you're the nicest, I know you'd overlook that too.) The stocking line-up on the mantle would inspire for sure and anyone leaving would merry at the soft jingle coming from the hanging bells on our front door.

So how did I lose with such an angelic (err... aspiring) outcome?

Everything started out so beautifully with the my cheery elves assisting to hang and beautify our home. When we ventured outside, they played happily in the leaves and would check in to see mama's progress as I hung the lights and garland. Our efforts were going well. But then came the hiccups, the unexpected obstacles, the window panes that kept sliding and creating off-centered candles; the little toddler hands that kept toppling the creche... In a few short moments, I let my opponent win out. My temper flared, my patience waned, and Grinch's female counterpart made a quick visit to our home.

Oh, my attempts at perfection. How I fail every time.

So much for maintaining the Advent spirit.
Yet another reminder that I'm in need of a Savior.
Amen to that.

Earlier this week a friend passed along this beautiful reflection of how depraved we are even in the midst of a season of glut and excess. Here is an excerpt, reminding me of my ever-needy status as I look to heaven in anticipation of our Savior's birth:

"No, when it comes to salvation, we are all nothing but beggars. We are the needy. It is we for whom the tiny bell rings at the gate of heaven. It is our name that hangs limp on the Tree of Life. It is we who wait and hope that someone will turn in our direction this Christmas, not leave us bereft and empty-handed while the rest of the world rejoices. It is we who beg for the gift-the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal value.

Let us wait with the anticipation of a child unsure of whether there will a gift for him. Let us beg with the zeal of one who is truly hungry. Let us lift feeble hands up to heavens, without assurance that they will be filled, in the blind faith driven by desperation."


If you had been spending too much time on the computer already, tinkering with photos, if you had given in to the afternoon blahs and had a cup of coffee, if your husband called to let you know he was working late, if he called again to let you know he had decided to skip the commute and sleep at your mother's, if you were approaching your routine monthly week of insomnia anyway, if all of these things were happening to you, you might find yourself blogging in a quiet house at 1 am, acknowledging that anyone in their right mind who lived in a house with six children would sleep anytime they slept, and you would be awfully glad that your children were going to spend the next morning at a pajama themed birthday party, meaning that they do not have to get dressed and also will not be here to experience the grumpiness, if all of these things were happening, it just might be worth it to find this Chesterton quote:

On Christmas morning, he [Chesterton] remembered, his stockings were filled with things he had not worked for, or made, or even been good for.

The only explanation people had was that a being called Santa Claus was somehow kindly disposed toward him. “We believed,” he wrote, that a certain benevolent person “did give us those toys for nothing. And ... I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.

“Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

“Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.

“Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will.”

I found it, along with lots of amazing advice and many wonderful activities for Advent on Karen Edmisten. Seriously, I feel like the Holy Spirit has said to me "there, I have led you to the best thing on the internet at the moment, so now will you please, please, close the screen, brush your teeth and go to sleep?" And I will.


There is free shipping at Shutterfly right now, if anyone has digital printing to get done, enter code SHIP25. I have been uploading my photos, hoping to order some prints for some long overdue baby books -- they make great 2nd birthday presents, right?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Second Annual Tone, Trash Talk, and Thanksgiving Turkey Update

Since I promised to be accountable to the readers of this blog, here is the post-race update. I think my husband enjoyed nothing more than flipping on the lights at the crack of dawn Thanksgiving morning to say, "Rise and shine, it's 30 degrees outside!" Mornings and cold are two of my least favorite things and he knows it! After putting on 4 layers and two pairs of gloves and downing a hot cup of coffee, we bundled the protesting children in foreign objects otherwise known as coats and gloves (we don't wear these in Texas) and headed out.

My feet were numb for the first mile, but I thought of my 4 year old who said with confidence that Daddy would run faster because he has longer legs. I rallied and came in just over 23 minutes for the 3 mile course (ahead of my long-legged husband). Hardly a PR, but not as embarrassing as I was worried it may be.

More importantly, I have found a way to add exercise into my weekly routine for my sanity and health's sake. I have fallen in love with running all over again. While I am confined to the treadmill at this stage of my life, I can still get the endorphins flowing and a stress relieving break.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Let's Not Tailgate Our Way to Christmas"

Happy first week of Advent, dear readers!

I was blessed to hear a wonderful homily at the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, and wanted to share some of the priest's reflections on Advent with all of you. In all honesty, this was a homily that I wish I could have recorded - the priest did an amazing job of capturing the true meaning of Advent and of conveying to all of us the weight and importance of this liturgical season. One of the most helpful reminders to me was that Advent is not only a period of devout and joyful expectation as we prepare for Christmas which celebrates Christ's first coming, but that it is also a season which reminds us that we await Christ's second coming. The Church in her wisdom has devoted the Gospel passages for the first two Sundays of Advent to reminding us that Christ will come again in glory at the time of the Last Judgment, and that "upon the earth [there will be] distress of nations in perplexity" and "men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world" (Luke 21: 25-26). Why will there be great distress and people fainting with fear? Because many will be surprised by and unprepared for Christ's coming.

And so we must ask ourselves, "Am I prepared to meet Christ when He comes again? Are the activities of my daily life preparing me for eternal life with my Creator, or are they merely self-serving and aimed at earthly success? Am I looking forward to heaven, or am I unduly attached to the things of this world?" As the Gospel of Luke reminds us, "...take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare" (Luke 21: 34).

During this season of Advent, we must soberly and seriously take the time to prepare our hearts for the joyful coming of Jesus at Christmas, and also for His coming at the end of time. In a culture that encourages spending the next few weeks rushing from store to store for the perfect gifts and from one holiday gathering to the next, we must make sure that our focus remains on preparing ourselves and our families for Christ our King. Many of us will invite guests into our homes for Christmas, and we will go to great lengths to tidy and decorate our homes so that they will be festive and welcoming. What are we doing to make sure that our hearts will be a welcoming place for Jesus when he comes?

The title of this post references tailgating, a fun activity that many people engage in during football season. While the football game may not begin until 1 p.m., football fans gather in the parking lot at 10 a.m. to eat, drink, and enjoy each other's company. Tailgates are great fun, but our priest commented that in his experience, many people overindulge in the pre-game festivities so that by the time half-time comes around, they are completely out of it. He warned us that we must not tailgate our way to Christmas. We must not overindulge in the pre-Christmas festivities so that by the time Christmas arrives, we're glad that it's all over! Again, Christmas parties, baking, and decorating are great in moderation, but if they become our focus rather than preparing ourselves for the great mystery that we are about to celebrate, we will have missed a great opportunity.

Next Sunday's Gospel reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah: "...Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3: 4-6). Let us truly prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, that we may fully celebrate his Incarnation at Christmas and look with joyful anticipation towards the time that He will come again.

A few tools that we will be using in our home during Advent are a very simple Jesse Tree, a special family prayer, and an interactive and child-friendly Nativity Scene. We will learn Christmas carols but (much as I love them!) we will try not to overdo it so that we will still want to listen to them during the Christmas season. As we bake Christmas cookies and trim our tree, we will remind our children that the reason that we do all of these things is so that we can prepare our hearts and our home to to welcome Jesus. First and foremost, my husband and I will be praying for our own purity of heart and mind, that we may be truly leading our family towards eternal life in heaven.

St. Andrew 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.

It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thought this was interesting

If you have a moment, read this lead story in Time Magazine. Are you a helicopter parent? I definitely have some helicopter tendencies.

Also, I found this general societal comment interesting:
Some of the hovering is driven by memory and demography. This generation of parents, born after 1964, waited longer to marry and had fewer children. Families are among the smallest in history, which means our genetic eggs are in fewer baskets and we guard them all the more zealously.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lost in Translation

A friend of mine stopped me today after helping to run the Thanksgiving party in my oldest son's (4.5yo) preschool class. She just couldn't stop laughing after talking with our M...

Mrs. J: So M, are you excited for Thanksgiving?

M: Yeah, I'm excited for the turkey. But we have to kill it first.

Mrs. J: (confused) Does your daddy go out and hunt for the turkey?

M: No, he doesn't shoot it. We catch it with a butterfly net.

LOL! Where do kids come up with this stuff?!
Cheers to a 4-year-old's perception of reality!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cranberries. So saucy.

Cranberry sauce is a highlight of the Thanksgiving meal.

Making it couldn't be simpler: with a basic recipe of 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and a 12 oz bag of cranberries, it basically makes itself.

The taste couldn't be better: tart and sweet, it moistens and enlivens every other Thanksgiving dish on the table. Great texture. Great deep ruby color. My toddler eats it by the spoonful. I do too, in private.

This year, my brave sister-in-law ("Queen Hospitality"), who just had her first baby, is hosting all 17 of my husband's immediately family members. Among other things, I'm bringing cranberry sauce. I will be making 3 batches. One standard recipe. Two with a little extra sparkle.

Do you have an excellent cranberry sauce recipe you'd be willing to share? Exotic, homey, or otherwise special.

I will make two of the suggested recipes, and my in-laws (including five sisters-in-law who are all lovely ladies, talented chefs, and connoiseurs of fine foods) will vote on a favorite. The winner and runner-up will receive by mail an Advent treat. I'll get your addresses when the results are in.

Thank you for helping to add extra zest to our Thanksgiving table! Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

talkin turkey

We are taking the week off to enjoy Thanksgiving. While we have done our traditional Handprint Turkeys, we are also reinforcing several weeks of reading from our Thanksgiving book basket by doing Narration work. This is a Charlotte Mason technique where the children tell back what they have read or learned. Try it with your children, the results can be cute or surprising, they remember such interesting details. I used a few prompts and had the children dictate to me while I typed their words. I asked them to tell me about the first Thanksgiving, Our Thanksgiving Traditions and what they were thankful for this year.

We are headed to New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother. I look forward to cooking and having a relaxed family meal. He is a vegetarian so we are getting to experiment with some new side dishes, but I have also ordered a turkey from our local farm. I am looking forward to stuffing and sweet potatoes, but we are adding brussel sprouts and cauliflower this year in an attempt to use local, seasonal foods.

We are hoping to fit in some runs and perhaps watch the parade. I am especially thankful for my brother this year, who is a writer, a cancer survivor, a great uncle and friend. We don't agree on everything, but we choose to get along and respond to each other with love. He is incredibly supportive of me, and I try to be so of him, too.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Perhaps a better Montessori Idea...

We have been chatting about how to help our children build routines, including getting ready to go in the morning and handwashing. B-Mama told us that her boys are reminded to wash hands well because she posted the instructions that they made in school near the sink.

Handwashing is a great example of a Montessori practical life activity. Appropriate, child size tools are provided and the child is taught to do some real work (wash hands) that does matter to himself and the community. In addition to the skill at hand, he also learns to focus and to follow a sequence of instructions. By repeating this task over and over again, he has the experience of mastering something. He also has a sensory experience as he feels the warm water and soap.

I was looking for Christmas gifts on Etsy -- the perfect compromise for those who wish they could shop local/independent but also wish to avoid stores. I came across these charts which look like a great help to habit building. Once you are over there, look around, it is great fun and so inspiring to see what people are making!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keeping it real...

You Montessori homeschooling supermoms (and everyone else too) will enjoy this coverage of a wonderful new Montessori innovation for dental students.

Montessori School of Dentistry Lets Students Discover Their Own Root Canal Procedures

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: The Waitress at the diner where I had breakfast with my two younger children this morning. She brought the children extra crayons and coloring sheets and hot chocolate with cream as soon as we walked in. I was on the phone getting a car maintenance quote when she delivered our breakfast order. Without being asked, she sat down, buttered bagels and cut them into bite-sized pieces, moved all the hot drinks and knives, started the kids on their breakfast, and stayed with them until I finished my phone call. God bless you helping hands and kind souls of the world.

The Bad: The Stranger who cloned my credit card and charged $487 at a Walmart in California this afternoon. My bank is USAA, the military bank. My M.O. is fiercely watching every penny as we budget through graduate school. Stranger, you've messed with the wrong people.

The Ugly: My First 2009 Christmas-shopping trip this morning at TJMaxx. The heat is on, as I have one week to buy (on a budget) for many dear family members who we will see next week at Thanksgiving. Gift giving is oh-so-not my love language. It is 1 hour past naptime for my 3-year-old Bean and 18-month-old Angelina. Bean in the stroller handles porcelain trinkets as he uses his feet to push off the shelves and roll himself to the top of the staircase. I catch him just as he begins to head down. Angelina is back in the Ergo pulling my hair and tantruming, having just finished eating chocolate out of a display which I must now purchase. I am drenched in sweat, frying alive in a turtleneck sweater which I cannot remove because of said Ergo. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Maybe, just maybe, we can get this all taken care of before Advent.

For better or worse, there's rarely a dull day as a homemaker, wife, and mother of three preschoolers!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facebook Pros and Cons

Lately, I am getting the sense that everyone is on facebook. You can stop laughing now, yes I am internet savvy, I have a blog, after all! However, until the last six months, I thought that facebook was just for people about 5 years younger than me, or for those who were really into online networking.

Then I found out that my mom is on facebook. Frankly, it struck me as a little bit lame, I mean, really, who is she friending on facebook, is she sixteen? Well, I guess her facebook page must be pretty interesting, because my friends started asking me about it -- as in, is your brother really in the Opera, I read that on your mom's facebook page. So, who is she friending out there in internet land? My friends, my friends parents, my in-laws, extended family on both sides, the list goes on, but it seems my mother has an awful lot of friends!

After sitting quietly at the last two parties I attended while friends who had not seen each other in a while picked up quickly because of facebook updates, I started to wonder whether I should be on facebook. Then, someone (well, my mom, actually), sent me a link to a picture that I couldn't see, because I am not on facebook.

So, I started asking around, and friends tell me that I am the only person they know who is not on facebook. They tell me that I have missed the invitations to several parties and get togethers because I am not on facebook. They also tell me that they have found old friends on facebook, and it has been lots of fun. Then they tell me that facebook is annoying and a huge time suck. Then they tell me very honestly that I do not have time for facebook. Then, I started hearing about how people get hurt by facebook. Elizabeth is not alone in being 'unfriended' and I know one woman who was unfriended by family. I also know that I have a tendency to over share and wish I could take things back, which is part of why blogging only once a week is a good fit for me. Also, I know people get contacted by people from their past with whom, perhaps, they would prefer to remain out of touch. Now, instead of letting a friendship drop, you have to actually reject someone? Or do you just say "yes" to everyone but then block their messages so they don't annoy you? I already get easily annoyed by people on group yahoo lists, when they start getting political or just post too often, or ask obvious, google-able questions.

I can see lots of value in online social networking, but fear it is a distraction from real life social networking, after all, I have an extensive social network right here in my home! What do you think, am I missing out by holding out on facebook?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What I have learned since October 4th

1. They make a size newborn diaper, which my sweet baby just outgrew. Yes, Claire is my 4th newborn.   And yes, I just learned that they made a size newborn diaper. I have never before had a child small enough to fit into a newborn diaper. That cut-out thing for the umbilical cord is really cool--and beats the heck out of folding the top of the diaper down!

2. Just because my first three children are blond, doesn't mean I will always have blond babies. Claire appears to be our first brunette...time will tell if she is going to keep her brown hair.

3. A newborn baby is just about the greatest thing that can happen in the life of an almost six year old girl. It is also very exciting for my two boys, who make every effort to pay attention to baby Claire all day. I am loving it!

4. Hibernating for a couple of months after the baby is born is actually fun. I'm loving all the time with my kids, and for the first time in my life as a mother, I've actually enjoyed staying at our house for days at a time (and I'm a big time extrovert!).

5. If your six week old baby is only waking up once a night to nurse, you should thank God for this special blessing. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

6. Transitions are tough, and it is ok to go easy on yourself, relax your standards, and know that in time life will go back to normal. Take-out rocks.

7. There are an amazing number of wonderful people in my life who have truly celebrated the birth of our sweet baby. Your generosity has been amazing! The meals and gifts are all truly appreciated, and have been given with such love.

8. You will get more baby gifts when you have a baby girl. There is something about a baby girl that makes Aunts and distant relatives, who have otherwise ignored the birth of baby boys, fly to the store and buy baby clothes.

9. When you are overtired and desperate and you ask your 5 year old to get your 3 year old and 22 month old something to eat for breakfast, do not be surprised when you walk into the kitchen and see them all working hard with a pair of child-friendly scissors to cut open one cereal bar after another. Wrappers lie everywhere and the box itself was actually cut to shreads. The cheerios, your intended breakfast food, lie untouched in the pantry. Also, do not be surprised when all three children choose not to eat lunch because they have consumed about $10 worth of cereal bars.

10. Whoever said that once you have three children, and are officially outnumbered as parents, adding an additional child isn't that much more work was lying! My greatest challenge as the mother of 4 children is to make sure I am giving each child individual attention and love. An additional kid makes a big difference in this goal. It is going to be quite a transition.

12. When you do leave the house with all four children in tow, grown adults will often lose their ability to count to four, and ask you, "How many children do you have, lady?"

13. God is good. Claire is beautiful and perfect. Every time I look at her, I am reminded that miracles happen. She arrived naturally almost two weeks earlier than any of my other babies, born on the feast of St. Francis, as predicted by her big sister, Gianna. Since St. Claire was the "sister" saint to Francis, our little Claire will always know that God himself named her. I am reminded of this small miracle almost every time I say her name. Consolations like this are not normally part of my spiritual life, and so I am still thanking God for such a wonderful gift.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Helper

Living Books Curriculum, a great Charlotte Mason resource, has free "Holiday Helper" packets for several holidays throughout the year. I like them because they include beautiful poems, stories and art for a picture study. Beautiful and enticing first-person accounts for a young child. By all means, go ahead and make a hand print turkey, but try reading a beautiful Thanksgiving poem, too! You can download the Thanksgiving Helper at CurrClick for free.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halloween Candy Graphing

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The Paper Trail

If you're anything like me, the activities and demands of a busy household pull you in such a way as to leave a hurricane in its wake.

Especially on the kitchen counters.

It is during this pre-holiday season when the problem is at its worst. Holiday magazines arrive by the dozen, cramming our mailbox full and hampering my efforts to sift through the mail and make peace of the nightmare. Soon Christmas cards will be joining the mix, making the mail even more time-consuming to tackle. Heaven forbid the mail lands on the counter and stays there until the next day when the new pile arrives and lands on top.
Add to this the endless supply of coupons and savings that I aspire to keep and use (but hardly ever end up using because I lose them within the chaos and don't discover them again until they are expired!) And don't forget the countless receipts that clutter my purse and also end up on the counter in the hopes that I will add them to our budget roster. Also, now that my kids are getting to be school-aged, add to the insanity school papers, permission slips, projects, etc. that are eventually creating the perfect storm of paper. Help! I'm drowning in paper clutter!

I've been trying to address the situation like a good homemaker would. I've succeeded in places and in others, have obviously failed. I set up a filing system for bills, where one slot is for bills-to-be-paid, the other is for statements-to-be-filed, and the third is for items to save and not throw away. This system has been somewhat successful, but I will say, in order for the bills to be paid, you have to take the time to look in the bill slot! I wish this system had a priority element to it, where bills needing immediate payment are in a special category to draw my attention sooner.

Another organization technique I've been trying is keeping the kids' school papers in individual folders, one per child. The problem with this technique, however, is that the folders end up on the counter after all! Perhaps a hanging folder system is the way to go? Perhaps devoting a small corner of the house to overall paper organization is the secret?

As for the myriad of receipts, well, here's the outcome. This was a Halloween basket I picked up for storing candy. Scratch that. It is the current end all be all for every receipt that comes in the door. Now its just sitting there, gathering dust, hoping someday to be sorted into what matters and what can be trashed. Is it even worth hanging onto receipts when most of our purchases are logged through the credit card? I'm at a complete loss.

One last godsend I've instituted is our kitchen recycling bin. It is stored in the closet and is the immediate spot for sending all mail rejects. If I can take the time to attack the mail pile, I can sort and immediately dispose of what is not needed. But what about where to put the important items??

What are your secrets? How do you handle the paper trail? What products help you with organization? Do you have any suggestions to help this disorganized mother achieve more streamlined organization? Especially before the holidays hit????
THANK YOU. You're helping more than you know!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunction?

Good Morning! I am hoping that some of you will be able to help me out. For the past several weeks, with the advice and consent of my husband, I have been getting up early to go for a walk/jog/run. Most days, I am home in time to shower and dress for the day, and this is a great luxury. Some days, however, it makes more sense for me to stay in my workout clothes for part, or even all, of the day. For example, on Fridays we have an outside gym class with the kids in the afternoon, so changing into real clothes is just a waste of time.

Here's the problem: my current workout gear is black yoga pants and a t shirt. I feel like they are a bit obscene to go out in public, especially if I am trying to fit in daily mass. I have solved this by tying a large sweatshirt around my waste to cover my bottom, but I think that might actually make it worse? Are there better choices available which would still be comfortable for running and could scoot right into my day? Something that would pass for "that cute mom in a ponytail went for a run this morning" rather than "hey, do you think that woman ever showers?" or "is she auditioning for a def leopard video?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vaccination Frustration

Since most of the playground talk lately seems to be about the H1N1 vaccine, I was interested to read this piece in the New York Times giving a pediatrician's perspective on the current climate of debate. I am not sure that I agree with him, but it is worth reading. Mostly, I wish that the doctors right now would honestly confront the fact that some people get sick from flu vaccines and try to give legitimate reasons that we should vaccinate anyway.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In search of the perfect one-liner...

In the handful of classic motherhood moments, here's one you'll appreciate:

Mom and three young children are out enjoying a public place, like a plaza, duck pond, park or campus green. Behavior is good, even if highly energetic. Morale is high. All is right with the world.

Romeo and Juliet (two heated-up teenagers or young adults) lie together in the grass, or lap-sit and make out, or sway in place front-to-front as they look in each others eyes. The children's noises draw them out of their passionate trance, distract them from their public displays of affection. They eye the children with disdain, disgust even, and snicker as the family walks by. The presence of children has spoiled the heat of the moment.

What a paradox. I thought the design was Man + Woman + Passion = Children.

I'd never say anything out loud (well probably not), but I wonder if there's a perfect one-liner to sum it all up. Nothing ugly or snarky. If you can think of one, I'll store it in the memory bank for some solace, and a little internal chuckle and wink, when these situations arise.

Stroller Recall

A Quick Note: Our readers should be aware of the latest recall of Maclaren Strollers. They are recalling them due to a faulty hinge mechanism that can cause child finger amputations and lacerations. Yikes!

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I love our new family. I do not love natural childbirth. One is, however, worth the other. Thank you all for prayers and words of encouragement. Tex, you cursed me. Just wait until it is our turn to guess for you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Delicious Beginning to the Week

In honor of the beginning of the second week of November - where has the time gone, and are we really already in November?! - and of course to celebrate the birth of AWOL's little guy :), I thought I would post a delicious and simple recipe. It is perfectly suited for a crowd, but I guarantee that it will also be gobbled up by your nearest and dearest if you leave it sitting around the house for a couple of days :)

Cheesecake Sopapilla Bars

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
2 packages of crescent rolls
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 13 x 9" pan and unroll both packages of crescent rolls into the bottom of the pan - press the seams together if needed.

Whip cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and spread over the rolls.

1 cup of sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick of butter, melted

Mix butter and sugar and pour over the base. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Welcome Baby!

It is with great joy that we welcome baby C, the newest "Builder Baby," born in Germany earlier today! In a report from AWOL's mother, we learned that baby C weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz and was born at 8:25 pm (Germany time) after "4 hours of serious labor and NO epidural," just as AWOL was hoping for :) More details, and hopefully a couple of pictures, to come!
Congratulations, AWOL family, and welcome little one!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Retreat season is approaching. I loved silent retreats in college but let them pass by for the first four years of motherhood. It's so hard to slip away for a weekend or long weekend alone with Our Lord. If mothers could leave behind the household and the kids that easily, we'd all be a lot more refreshed, accomplished in our hobbies, and well-traveled. It takes enormous preparation, sacrifice by the whole family, and a giant leap of faith to commit to a retreat.

I finally went last spring. Quite simply, it rekindled the flame of my love for Christ, like a honeymoon. It wasn't a "mountaintop" emotional experience; it wasn't even particularly emotional. It was short few days to focus soberly and gratefully and joyfully on our Love and His plan for my life. Lavish (even for an extrovert), to devote three days to complete silence, solitude with myself and God, punctuated by guided meditations, spiritual reading, reception of the Sacraments, prayer, walking and thinking and listening in God's creation. My retreat was conducted by Opus Dei at Murray Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. Non-city retreats are at least as great.

And AH YES, it was so physically refreshing to have three days off from taking care of children and the household, to eat great meals that I didn't cook, and to sleep through the night.

So, this is a quick plug and encouragement to begin looking at the December-May calendar and focusing in on some retreat dates. Brainstorm ways that family members and friends could be called upon to help your loving family survive the weekend without you. Lent can be a great time to go. Or is there a time to go after weaning the current baby before the next one arrives? Or bring baby along? Set aside some money, tithe or otherwise. Pray through the details. Again, I say this humbly, after missing retreats for several years and then finally returning to rediscover what a gift they are.