Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishing We Didn't Have to Have These Conversations...

Middle Sister to TheDad, as she walked up behind him as he sat at the computer: "Can I come over there, or is that something about Saddam Hussein that I'm not allowed to see?"

Really. Do we need all these pictures of the Swinging Dead Dictator? I had to read the newspaper very carefully this morning--I'm thankful for the warning they put on Page One that on Page Eleven there would be "graphic photos." Then I made sure TheDad folded the paper back up after he read it, so there would be no chance that squeamish ME or impressionable children would have to see that.

Father Martin has a good link in his post about the reasons behind the execution, though I don't think killing anyone is ever a good idea. There are also very important points made in Song of November, especially the part about Saddam now becoming a martyr for his twisted causes.

I have to just give up. I'll never understand all this or even begin to. May God have mercy on Saddam's soul; may the families of all who were hurt by his actions and policies be comforted; and may all who work toward evil come to a change of heart.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pajama Day

Can you hear the sigh of relief?

I got up, had some "prayers & coffee," got a shower and put on a fresh pair of pajamas.

Little Brother thinks it's cool, though he can't understand why I made HIM get dressed if I am not (he doesn't realize that these are not the pajamas I slept in). Plus, he's fairly likely to spend time outside this afternoon.

The Big Kids think I'm nuts. I know that this is going to keep me sane.

Scientific? Not quite. Poetic? Definitely.

Little Brother was mourning the lack of wintry whiteness last night as we drove under a cloudy sky to a party. It's too warm for snow, but the sky did have that look.

He looked out the window and observed the clouds, lit from below by the city lights and a nearby power plant. And he commented, "Clouds are snow! They fall down. Then you play in them."

He's not too far off--even Dad The Meteorologist would have to agree with that one.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Opposites Attract...and Clash

TheDad is an extrovert. Holidays bring out the best in him. He's always ready to invite guests over, or attend one gathering after another. Even on weekends, it drives him crazy to have to stay home.

I'm an introvert. Holidays bring out the worst in me. By the Third Day of Christmas (that would be the second Road Trip out of at least 3) I am ready to lose it, if I haven't already. And by this point in the year all I want to do is spend a day in my pajamas and Never Leave The House For Any Reason. This morning I was wound up so tight I was ready to burst into tears with no provocation. I had to escape to the supermarket where I could be alone.

TheDad also likes to drop all routine and do something different, whereas I thrive on familiarity--except for furniture arrangement and trying new recipes.

Parties, even family gatherings, can sap my mental strength in a way that even arguing with a four-year-old doesn't. I feel like it costs me a great deal, some days, to put on a smile and socialize, whether it's with family members or near-strangers. And parties become something I dread; I almost never look forward to them. Right about now, I'm just plain exhausted--and I look it.

We've got 2 more parties and one more visit scheduled in the next four days. After that, people in this house will start going back to school and work, and I will stop feeling like I need to go and hide.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Like Christmas Songs? Like Word Games?

Ron's got a fun game you can play with your family.

The first one stumped me for a while, but I did eventually get all of them. Of course, some credit must be given to Sister Anne from my high school, who made it her personal business to ensure that all of us developed our vocabularies to the fullest extent required by the SAT.

And allow me to give a little plug for XM Radio here: they have honored listener requests and kept one of their "All-Christmas-Music" stations playing through New Year's Day. Around here, the Christmas music on regular radio stops at noon on Christmas Day, so this move is MUCH appreciated.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to Middle Sister!

11 years ago Middle Sister was born, very early in the morning on this day.

Now that she is 11 we know just how sweet, funny, caring, athletic, creative and dramatic she can be, and we love every bit of all that makes her....Middle Sister!

On birthdays, the celebrating one gets to choose what's for dinner and what kind of cake to have. Middle Sister wanted pizza from her favorite place, and an apple pie. And she wanted to invite someone.

In true Middle Sister form, one "someone" has evolved into two whole families of "someones" so we've got 10 people on their way over here to enjoy pizza, apple pie, and brownies (I only had enough apples for one pie).

I hope I have birthday candles!

Happy birthday and much love to Middle Sister!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

O Holy Night

May you and your families be blessed this Christmas--but wait, you already are!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Middle Sister posted this sign on the basement door this morning after I sequestered myself in there with a large cup of coffee, the phone, and a scary amount of laundry, wrapping paper and tape. My sister and I talked our way through our respective Gift-Wrap Hells. I also did most of the wash.

I didn't have the heart to remind her that the child who most needed to stay away from the basement is also the one who can't read the sign.

As for her inability to spell "warning" and "wrapping" while correctly spelling "consequences," I have been informed that TheDad helped with that one. I was kind of impressed that she knows how to use that word.

The wrapping is done, and I have helpfully left TheDad a nice setup on top of the dryer (yes, I wrap gifts on top of my washer and dryer). There are several kinds of wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and gift tags--all ready for him to use. And I have it on good authority that he did not get me a new mop or anything like that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Goofy Reindeer Are The Best Reindeer

I don't remember all the places where I saw the idea to make these reindeer cookies. They seem to be everywhere this year.

I used our regular rolled-sugar-cookie recipe for these. I rolled out an interminable number of cookies and Middle Sister gamely decorated most of them. (Not all were reindeer. They're cute, but they take up a lot of cookie-sheet real estate, and as the person who must scrub the cookie sheets between batches, I wasn't willing to do too many of them).

Big Brother made ONE mutant reindeer with two different-colored eyes, and a green nose (ewwww!)

And Little Brother made a few as well. I thought that this googly-eyed one had the most charm of all the reindeer created today.


Middle Sister put together a gift for me a while ago. She put it in a big pink gift bag and warned me not to look in it.

Later she got a different gift bag for the gift and put it under the Christmas tree. The tree is right behind my desk I was warned not to look in it, and so far I've been good. It's been there at least a week now.

Tonight, when Big Brother was wondering if participating in a conspiracy qualified as being bad or good, I told him that being in a conspiracy to get his mother a nice gift and do double chores for the next year would be a good one.

Middle Sister reminded him that she had made me a gift. I told him that I even knew where it was. He wanted to know if I had peeked, and I promised that I had not.

Middle Sister said that Big Brother could look in the bag--but that he probably wouldn't know what the gift was.

Then she laughed hysterically.

But I'll have to wait until Christmas morning to find out if I know what the gift is....

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent in My House: They're On Fire

Too much Boy Scout. Not enough reverence.

For example:

...they start the meal by musing, "I wonder if I can sneeze the candles out tonight."

...Big Brother is running out of clever ways to light the match. (Tomorrow we may have to do the Boy Scout flint thing. That could keep him busy for a while).

...they have been picking the wax drippings off the sides of the candles and stacking them around the wick, campfire-style. (Note to self: next year, buy the dripless kind.)

...they are begging to light the fourth candle because "we won't be eating dinner at home on Sunday night, and we need to use it sometime."

Here's where I am seriously glad that Advent is as short as it possibly can be this year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Catholic Carnival for this week

Visit this week's Catholic Carnival!

There are 17 participants in this week's carnival--something for everyone! Check it out. That should be enough to keep you busy for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I'd Love to See THIS Classroom Moment

Middle Sister just hopped out of bed and ran downstairs to ask, "Mom, can I borrow your sombrero? I need it for school tomorrow."

Me: "You'll have to find it, but if you can find it you can borrow it." (And yeah, I ranted a little about letting that one wait until after bedtime....)

She quickly found and retrieved my giant sombrero and put it with her school things. As she ran back to bed she called, "Thanks! We're acting out the birth of Jesus, and I get to be a Spanish person."

Between that and the scheduled science experiment involving Diet Coke and Mentos, I'm guessing tomorrow will be a day to remember.

At least her teacher got a good laugh

Today Middle Sister brought home a religion test she had taken. The subject of the test was "Baptism."

One of the questions was:

The _________________ is placed on the person being baptized as a sign of new life in Christ.

Her answer: The lighted candle is placed on the person being baptized as a sign of new life in Christ.

The teacher had circled the words "lighted" and "on" and put a big exclamation point there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Logical Consequences

Logical to me, anyway.

Since the child who typically occupies the "way back seat" in the van has the habit of leaving her clothing, jewelry, books, pencils, and other paraphernalia all over the seat and floor in her general area (not to mention a good deal of trash), and

Since said child insisted that she did not have any clothing in my van as recently as yesterday, and

Since I went out to the van this morning and removed one denim jacket, one hoodie sweatshirt and one pair of pajamas, all belonging to her,

MIDDLE SISTER gets to vacuum the van today!

Who Gives Us Freedom?

Sometimes trying to explain things to a young child in an age-appropriate way can leave them more confused.

Other times, it leaves them expressing a truth that you never thought someone so young could know.

Yesterday in the car, we heard one of those "Christmas greetings from deployed soldiers" that the stations play between songs. When it was over, the announcer said, "That was a Christmas Greeting from one of America's heroes."

Little Brother said, "Why are they heroes?"

I told him, "They are protecting our country so we can have freedom."

He considered this for a minute and then said, "I thought GOD does that."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Didn't Sing in the Choir Today

Today I sat in the pew with my family. Normally we attend the noon Mass and Middle Sister and I are in the choir. But today at noon, my fellow Franciscans and I (and the kids) will be working to prepare for the Greccio celebration at 1 PM. Noon Mass was out of the question today.

Much as I love singing in the choir (and I know my husband loves that Middle Sister and I do this), it's a rare gift to sit all together. I like watching Little Brother clumsily genuflect, and hearing him say all the responses just a little too late, and being able to share the sign of peace with my family.

I could also see what was happening in the Mass a good bit better than I can from my usual seat in the choir area. I could see our only priest. He is a brilliant, devoted man who is obviously on fire with his faith. He's also beginning to show his age. I imagine that the schedule he must keep, as the only priest in the parish, is exhausting.

He laid it on the line after Communion that when Christmas is on a Monday, he's got 9 Masses to celebrate in a 48-hour period--and that he just can't do it. So next Sunday, there will be no noon Mass.

More and more, we will be seeing this happen as there are fewer priests to go around. More and more, we will see situations like Catholic Mom and Catholic Pillow Fight are discussing right now: the pros and cons of requiring tickets for Christmas and Easter Masses.

Churches in my diocese are closing; they're looking at my local deanery now. Once all that takes place, our Christmas and Easter Masses are going to be even more packed than they are right now.

I will say that it is very hard to be generous to the "C&E" Catholics; it is easy to complain that because of them there is no parking, there are no seats and no hymnals to be had, that we need three Communion songs to handle the procession. It is hard to remember that it's WONDERFUL that there are so many people in church that there is no parking, no seats, no hymnals, and a long Communion line. It's a gift to us all that so many are in church.

And those of us who regularly go to church need to keep our complaints to ourselves. We need to extend our best hospitality to our twice-a-year guests. We in the pews need to put our best face forward. Our parish needs to see to it that these Masses are the best of the best. Get the best lectors, the best cantors. Prepare the best homily. Make the "C&E" Catholics want to come back.

I believe that this would be a wonderful gift that we could give to Baby Jesus this Christmas: our hospitality to all our fellow Catholics, no matter how often or seldom they attend Mass. Shouldn't our goal be to follow the example of the early Christians: "See how they love one another!"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Is it just me...

Ever since I moved my blog to "the new and improved BETA" yesterday, I've been getting an amazing amount of spam in my comments. Oddly enough, it's all been Italian spam. (Spamoni?) What's up with that? Are these 2 events connected?

Hence the comments moderation has been turned on. Pardon the inconvenience.

And no, I don't read Italian, but I read Spanish well enough to figure out what's going on in these spam comments. At least they're not "adult" spam. Thank God for that.

Any other Beta Bloggers having this problem, or am I just lucky?

And while I'm discussing (dissing) Beta, how afraid (scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being very, very afraid) should I be about clicking that "upgrade my template" button?

I like the "label" feature though....but I'm going to have to really, really resist my obsessive need to label each and every post I've ever posted.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Saint for the Year

I think Saint Nicholas must have been flattered by Little Brother's mistaking him for God.

How else to explain the fact that he'll be my patron for the year in Moneybags' Patron Saint for 2007 Devotion?

I love this image of Saint Nicholas leading the children to the Christ-child in the manger.

How to Have a Catholic Christmas

According to our new pastor, here's what to celebrate. It's not just one special day--but eight! He's published this information on the front of this week's bulletin.


Christmas is not the only holyday of our Christmas Season. There are seven others that, collectively, comprise our Christmas Celebration.
The birth of Jesus is not the only event we celebrate. It ends with our observance of his Baptism and the beginning of His ministry. Here are the other holydays of our Christmas Season.

Christmas Day, Monday, December 25
The Church began celebrating this day over 1,500 years ago. The day was first kept as a day which proclaimed faith in a Savior born to be the hope of our future fulfillment.

St. Stephen the Martyr, Tuesday, December 26
On the day after Christmas we hear about the death of the first martyr. We are jolted from the “peace” of Christmas to the awareness that faith in the Babe in the manger could involve death.

St. John, Wednesday, December 27
The Gospel takes us to the empty tomb of Jesus.
The mystery of the birth and death of Jesus are intermixed.

Holy Innocents Day, Thursday, December 28
We hear the story of the death of innocent children. The song of the angels is replaced by the weeping of grieving mothers. The reading of the day says: ‘GOD IS LIGHT. IN GOD THERE IS NO DARKNESS!’ We are left to ponder God and the mystery of evil.

Holy Family, Sunday, December 31
On this Sunday after Christmas, we are not shown a holy-card-perfect family.
We see a real family, united in obedience to the Word of God.

Mary, Mother of God, Monday, January 1
The day speaks to us about the full and faithful cooperation of Mary with the plan of God for her life.

Epiphany, Sunday, January 7
We celebrate the first showing of Jesus to the world.
The Gospel contrasts Herod who wishes to kill the child and the Magi who wish to adore Him.

The Baptism of Jesus, Monday, January 8
The last day of our Christmas Season. We focus on the voice from heaven which tells us who Jesus is.
He is the One-Sent-to-Save. He is the Messiah. He is anointed with the Spirit as he begins His ministry.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Great Saints Think Alike

The passage of 400 years does nothing to minimize the wisdom:

Saint John of the Cross, 16th century:
The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.

Mother Theresa, 20th century:
I am not sure exactly what Heaven will be like. But I know that when we die and it comes the time for God to judge us, He will not ask, "How many good things have you done in your life?" Rather He will ask, "How much love did you put into what you did?"

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife

Image Credit

Kathryn Judson has a link to this article about the new Swiss Army Knife that appears to have everything but the kitchen sink in it.

I have a Swiss Army Knife myself, that's come in quite handy on many occasions, but it doesn't have nearly the tools this one does. I can't remember what the name of the model is, but it does pack a corkscrew and tweezers.

It got me thinking, though--if they were to market a Swiss Army Knife for moms, what tools would they include?

In my hypothetical knife, considerations such as refillability wouldn't be a factor. Hence my list of tools for the Ultimate SFO Mommy Knife:

Nail clippers
Nail file
Flat screwdriver
Phillips screwdriver
Special tool for undoing the diabolical twistie-ties that bind toys to packaging
Wire cutters
Magnifying glass
Candle Snuffer
Sewing needle
Finger Rosary

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

If there was ever a prayer to put in your kitchen, THIS IS IT

I'm printing this prayer and hanging it on one of my cabinet doors.

A big Thank You to the Kitchen Madonna for posting this prayer.

All right, that came out quite tiny and I'm not sure how to fix the image without blurring it. Big Brother will have to help later. Here's the text of the prayer:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I've no time to be a great saint by doing lovely things,
Or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawnlight,
Or storming heaven's gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
And washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
And light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying,
And make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food,
In room, or by the sea,
Accept the service that I do—I do it unto Thee."

- St. Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Up Close

I saw this beautiful image this morning at Blessed Among Men.

I think everyone's seen pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I know I've seen countless ones. But they're always slightly blurry full-body images, so you can't see too much detail anywhere.

This one is different. It's been on my mind all day because of how different it is. You actually get to see the features of the face. You see the beautiful serenity that is displayed there. You see her face and hands--and how young they appear. And you see humility.

Mary was the Mother of God, but she did nothing to glorify herself because of that role. There was nothing like, "Look what my son can do! He can change water into wine! He can heal paralyzed and blind people! He can raise his friends from the dead! I bet your son can't do that!" Instead, she said, "I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to His word."

I think it's partly Mary's humility that leads to her apparitions to very humble people, such as Juan Diego, Bernadette, and the three children in Fatima. They were not going to try to glorify themselves because they had seen the Mother of God. They were only going to try to carry out God's will.

May Our Lady of Guadalupe show us the way to humility.

With a Little Help From Our Friends

Yesterday's Gospel was the story of how Jesus healed the paralyzed man whose friends had to lower him through a hole in the roof to get to Jesus through the crowd.

In his homily, Father H. reflected on the faith of the man's friends, and the lengths they were willing to go on behalf of their friend--carrying a grown man on a mat, climbing up to the roof, making a hole, and lowering the man down to Jesus. They did all this because of their faith.

What do we do for our friends because of our faith? Are we willing to employ our Power Tools--not drills or chain saws, but the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?

Catholic Carnival

The Catholic Carnival: Eggnog Edition is up!

I'm no fan of eggnog, but I always love the Catholic Carnival. Every week, it's like a new treasure chest of terrific posts. Check it out!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Little Heart Breaks

I spent some time with a few other Secular Franciscans this afternoon as we fitted children for their costumes in preparation for Sunday's "Greccio" (living Nativity) celebration.

Little groups of primary-school children approached us wanting to be angels and shepherds. They walked away proudly carrying their robes and wings and halos.

And then there was one little girl. She's a beautiful child, and would be a perfect angel in her white robe and gold halo and shiny wings. Except for one little detail.

She said to me, with tears in her eyes, "I don't know if I can be here mommy and daddy are splitting up."

There was no way I was going to do anything to make this little girl any sadder than she already was. I told her that she could try on her costume, and we would hold it here in a special place. If she could come Sunday, the costume would be here for her to wear.

And then the teenagers helping us got this little girl outfitted in our most beautiful angel robe. We put it away in a safe place so we'll be sure to have it for her.

I hope we see this child on Sunday. I hope she gets to wear that robe. She's got enough heartbreak on her plate, at Christmastime. She should at least get to be an angel for an afternoon.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More on Saint Nick

I just followd a link or two back to this fabulous piece by Paul, the Regular Guy.

It's the result of what happens when you think about the Communion of Saints and the idea of Santa at the same time. What do you get? Not a culture clash--but a wonderful way to view many traditions and customs that are common during this holy season.

Saint Nicholas and the Mitre

Little Brother just asked me what Saint Nicholas looks like.

I have no idea what brought on that question, but I decided to show him the picture of Saint Nicholas that I posted here last week.

I told him, "Nobody took Saint Nicholas's picture so we don't know what he really looked like, but here's a picture somebody drew of what he might look like."

He studied it carefully and then said, "That's not Saint Nicholas. It's GOD! See, he has a cross on his hat."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Year Without a Santa Claus

My husband's favorite children's Christmas special is "The Year Without a Santa Claus." It's probably because as a meteorologist, he gets a kick out of the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser.

One thing I find myself dreading as the kids get older is our first year without a Santa Claus. A bonus of having children as spread-out in age as ours are is that this sad event is delayed for a while.

My children have been taught to believe in Santa Claus.

I only have one "believer" left and I hope he believes for a good long time. The Christmas Eve tradition we celebrate with my husband's family depends on the kids' belief in Santa.

I've always loved the fact that the Big Kids in the extended family work very hard to make sure that the magical experience of the visit from Santa is preserved for the little ones, year after year. One of my favorite Christmas Eve memories centers on the length some of the teenagers would go to in this regard. A certain Boy Cousin was about 11 or 12, and smugly began to broadcast the fact that it was really Uncle K in that Santa suit. Fortunately Boy Cousin wasn't too close to any of the little ones, and Teen Girl Cousin grabbed him none-too-gently and informed him that he was not going to ruin Christmas for the Little Kids or there would be consequences. He kept it up for a while anyway, despite her warnings, but I was one of the few people who even noticed. Well, Teen Girl Cousin took her place as one of Santa's Helpers that year. Sometimes Santa needs help reaching packages and reading gift tags, and the Teenage Cousins stand by to assist him. Boy Cousin's name was never called to go to Santa's lap and receive his gifts. It is a trademark of this party that every guest, even the ones who show up unexpectedly, and no matter what their age or size, must sit on Santa's lap and receive a gift. Boy Cousin didn't get any gifts. Finally Santa was finished handing out gifts, the last songs were sung, and Santa collected his jingle bells from the littlest child and went on his way. After Santa was gone and dessert had been served, Teen Girl Cousin pulled out a Hefty bag with Boy Cousin's gifts and said to him, "Merry Christmas."

I was so impressed with the way this girl handled the situation. She did not tattle to any adults. She did not let anyone know what she was doing. I'm sure she was aware that if she had done that, the Little Kids would find out. She kept things close to the vest. None of the other adults in the family even remembers this happening--I must have been standing in just the right spot to notice it all.

A couple of years ago it became obvious that the Santa costume was not going to be available to the family. Phone calls were made--it was 2 days before Christmas Eve. Every branch of the family offered to chip in toward the purchase of a new costume, someone found one, and the tradition was able to go on.

The Visit From Santa is a magical part of my husband's family's tradition. Children and adults alike look forward to the event. Once the children are old enough to stop "believing" they are told that they are now Santa's Helpers and they need to make sure they don't ruin things for the little ones. Remembering the fun they have had, they usually don't have a problem graduating to this new role. The Santa tradition brings out the best in all the members of the family.

It looks like ours is not the only family to enjoy this magic: a fire truck has just pulled up across the street, and Santa and several elves are knocking on the door of one of the houses. I'm on my way outside to wave to Santa--I'll see him in 2 more weeks!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Overheard in my house

Little Brother: "I want to be bigger."

Middle Sister: "You only get to get bigger once a month."

Her science teacher has her work cut out for her, that's for sure.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

I love the artistic license employed here, that puts Saints Francis and Anthony in company with the Blessed Mother.

At Mass today, the priest related the story of St. Francis informing one of the brothers that on feasts such as today, "there is no Friday." So HAPPY FEAST to one and all!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Mom Would Expect Nothing Less

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

My mother was my Language Arts teacher from sixth through eighth grades. I was afraid to get less than an A in her class--and it was a challenge in the beginning, because the school I attended before sixth grade never introduced grammar in any form. She taught me well, though; I went on to major in English in college and graduate school. To this day I am unable to keep myself from proofreading the newspaper as I read it.

H/T to Christine for this quiz!

Got Cookies?

Not yet?

Need recipes? No problem. Just visit Danielle's Advent Baking Carnival. There's a wealth of mom-tested recipes for cookies and treats of all kinds. Your only problem will be deciding which ones to bake first.

Time to bring out the pants with the elastic waist, I think...

Twenty-five Thousand

That's how many lights are on the National Christmas Tree this year, according to my local TV news.

I'm impressed--and trying to figure out if I can manage to get 1/10 that amount on my own tree here. I think that would double my current inventory. Unfortunately it would also double the sure would be pretty, though. You could probably see it from another zip code, at that point!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Persona Christi

This morning as I was cleaning up the kitchen, Little Brother wandered in and said, "Remember when Jesus said 'Hi, Buddy'?"

"No, I don't. When did Jesus do that?"

"In church, last time!"

"Did Jesus sing by himself in church last time?" (Father had sung a prayer after the Lamb of God this past Sunday, instead of reciting it).

"Yes, Jesus singed all by himself and then everybody singed a song together."

Obviously Little Brother still thinks that Father is Jesus. It was a different priest this time, but that didn't matter to Little Brother.

We've never explained the concept of persona Christi to our children, but Little Brother apparently gets it. As Pope John Paul the Great said, "The priest is a living and transparent image of Christ the priest."

And Little Brother is his buddy.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Little Saint Nick

Catholic Mom has a few reminders about special December saints. She's got great pictures AND great links, so don't miss it.

On our Advent Paper Chain, today's link reminded the children to place their shoes outside their bedroom doors tonight so St. Nicholas could leave them a surprise.

Little Brother was a little confused about this. Apparently he doesn't remember this tradition from last year. First he wanted to know if he should leave ALL his shoes by his door. Then, after I explained how many shoes should be left, and who St. Nicholas was, he thought about it for a while. He came back and said, "I'm going to put my shoes by my door, and Santa Claus's Brother will give me a surprise tonight!"

UPDATE: Little Brother has everything all ready. He put one rain boot and one sneaker by his door. At least he got a right and a left shoe....
And Middle Sister had put a pair of old church shoes outside her door yesterday because she has outgrown them. I hadn't gotten around to taking them to the basement to box up with her other outgrown things. She decided that since these are Very Nice Looking Shoes, St. Nicholas can leave her surprise there.
Big Brother has put out ONE of his snow boots--the biggest shoes he owns.

I Need a Do-Over

Did you ever have one of those days when you wished you could just start the whole thing over?

I think that so far (and I've only been up 2 hours) the only thing I've gotten RIGHT today was Morning Prayer.

I woke up crabby because Little Brother invaded my side of the bed at about 2 AM. The rest of the night I hung off the edge in odd positions, because that child can hog an entire queen-size bed.

I snapped at just about everyone who got in my way this morning and had no patience for Little Brother who put in an appearance about an hour earlier than normal, even though by that time he had the WHOLE bed to himself.

I came down pretty hard on Big Brother for missing some homework assignments (wait, I did that RIGHT, although maybe next time I won't make him start his day on that note).

I was not looking forward to an errand I had to do today that was made more inconvenient and would now involve a 20-minute sidetrip in the other direction, OR to defrosting my freezer, which is what I have to do today or the food won't ever come out again.

Then Big Brother missed his bus. And it got really ugly. And I went outside to start the van so it wouldn't be SO chilly, and Big Brother and Casanova shepherded Little Brother out the door and shut the door. Did I mention that Little Brother was wearing only his pajamas and rain boots at the time, and it's below 30 degrees?

And it got uglier.

I apologized once I got Little Brother a coat, and got everyone in the van, which did not warm up until I got back into the driveway at home. But I don't think Big Brother wanted to hear it.

Yes, if I had a chance for a do-over today, I hope I'd do better.

The Christmas Meme

I've been tagged by Jennifer at The Catholic Path. I think she's figured out that I'm a sucker for a meme....

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Coffee!! I can't stomach Egg Nog!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? They are all coordinated and wrapped. Each child has his own wrapping paper and Santa's gifts always have Santa paper on them.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White on the house, colored on the tree. LOTS of colored lights on the tree. My husband thinks that the amount of lights I insist on putting on the tree borders on the insane--but the result is FABOO!

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually we do a little on each Sunday of Advent, doing the tree on the Third Sunday. This year, with such a short Advent, we'll accelerate things a little.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Pierogi and mashed rutabagas (really! But not necessarily together....) I like cranberry sauce too--the canned kind, with the "can marks."

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Sitting at the top of the staircase with my sister and brother, yelling, "Did Santa come? Can we come down now?"--and listening to my parents tell us that we had to wait until my grandmother got there (AFTER 7 AM MASS)--and then racing down the stairs to see the tree for the first time. "Santa" always decorated the Christmas tree in our house when we were kids.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Only the ones we receive at the family reunion/Wigilia. Everything else waits until the morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Most of our ornaments were given to us or made by the kids. I can remember a lot of the stories behind the ornaments--I should make a little journal about them. No tinsel or garland, just lots of lights and lots of ornaments.

11. Snow? Love it or Dread it? It's great if we don't have to go anywhere!

12. Can you ice skate? I can stay upright, but I can't do any tricks.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? My favorite childhood gift was a pretty doll cradle with a big baby doll inside. My favorite adult gift was my digital camera 2 years ago.

14. What's the most exciting thing about the Holidays for you? Decorating the tree.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Christmas cookies, of course! They're also my favorite Holiday Breakfast.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Watching the kids put the ornaments on the tree, and baking the Christmas cookies.

17. What tops your tree? We have an electric star that lights up--BUT if one of the kids makes a tree top (usually an angel, on a toilet paper tube base) at school, we use that instead.

18. Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? Giving. I especially enjoy wrapping up the presents, and imagining the recipients as they unwrap them. And then it drives me crazy to have to wait until Christmas to give the gift.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? "O Holy Night." I'm unable to sing it or even hear it without tearing up.

20. Candy Canes? Bring 'em on!

Monday, December 04, 2006

He Sees You When You're Sleeping...

That must be because some of kids' cutest moments happen when they're asleep. You really can see their resemblance to angels when they're so quiet and peaceful.

Early this morning when I got up, I stopped in Little Brother's room. As usual, he was out of the blankets, curled up into a tiny fuzzy-pajama ball. I untangled his blankets and covered him back up. A little smile appeared on his face as he stretched out his legs and relaxed.

I'm a sucker for moments like that. And if Christmas gifts were entirely dependent on the look on Little Brother's face at that moment, we'd need a bigger house to hold them all.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Overheard at the Advent Table

In keeping with the theme that around here, it's not all sweetness and light. No, we're a "warts and all" family and more often than not, that means that somebody will be around with a magnifying glass to inspect those warts and comment on the grossness thereof...'s what was said at the dinner table tonight:

Big Brother, upon finding out that it was his turn to light the Advent candle: "Where are the matches? These candle lighters are for WIMPS."

Me, to Little Brother: "Finish chewing your food before blowing out the candle."

Yes, we're definitely pretty rough around the edges in this house.

The Damage Is Done

Little Brother has been enjoying his very own Nativity Scene all morning. He's traded around the capes, crowns and other props (right now the shepherd is wearing a royal purple cape.)

He showed Daddy the shepherd's staff. Daddy observed to Big Brother, "Look--this is just like a bazooka."

That was all Little Brother needed to hear. Now he's showing off all the little tiny weapons to everyone.

I'm going to spend my entire Advent doing damage control.

Prepare Ye

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

In our family we use the season of Advent to gradually get ready for Christmas. We don't go whole hog and put up our Christmas tree on Black Friday. We like to start slower, and enjoy the Advent season. This year, since Advent is so short, we will be "speeding up" our preparations a bit. We try, though, to emphasize with the kids that this is a liturgical season and link our preparations and customs to that.

When the Big Kids were younger, I used to make an Advent paper chain. On each day there would be an activity or prayer or special treat listed. Then Little Brother got into the act, and would tear up the chain, and I started listing things on a calendar I'd print out. But who knew--the kids missed the paper chain! Middle Sister asked for it last week. So this year, we're back to the chain.

I've also taken Milehimama's suggestion and purchased a toy Nativity scene. Little Brother (and Middle Sister) can arrange and rearrange the figures to their hearts' content. And rumor has it that Little Brother wants to bring all the stuffed animals he can find to round out the selection of animals at the stable. (Is this a Nativity scene, or Noah's ark?) I'll bring that out today, as soon as I get the coffee table cleaned off.

Today's link says, "Put the empty manger on the shelf. Place the Advent wreath on the table. Begin decorating the house." The manger will remain completely empty until we put in the animals, during the week before Christmas.

H/T to Jeff at The Curt Jester for the Advent wreath and countdown that he's generously provided to all bloggers for their sidebars!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Sweet Christmas Read

I just reacquainted myself with a book I hadn't thought of since my childhood:
Story of Holly and Ivy
Story of Holly and Ivy
by Rumer Godden.

What a sweet Christmas story for a young girl to enjoy. Unlike many of Godden's other books, it is not religious in nature, but the spirit of giving, sharing and love that should fill all our hearts at Christmas is abundant in this book. I handed it to Middle Sister after I finished rereading it, and Miss Reluctant Reader Herself devoured and enjoyed it as well.

I am such a fan of this author that I also reread The Kitchen Madonna yesterday. Apparently this one's out of print--but search your library! This is not a Christmas book, but what a lovely story of, again, giving, sharing and love--and how love brings a child to do what is very out of character, so that another person will have happiness.

If these books don't put you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Like This Idea

Michelle's posted her New Month's Resolution for December.

I like it.

So much so, in fact, that I'm trying it too. A little peace in the day is definitely a Good Thing. I've got my MP3 player loaded with appropriate music (today it'll be Beth Nielsen Chapman's Hymns) and the coffee's brewing as I type.

Let me tell you, it sure beats muttering through gritted teeth, "We're going to have a peaceful Christmas if it kills me!" Wouldn't it be nice to get all the way through Christmas without gritting my teeth at all?

Carnival of Cookies

Danielle's hosting an Advent Cookie Carnival! I can hardly wait. We love cookies (who doesn't?)

I'm not going to submit my usual sugar cookie recipe here, because I'm sure everyone has a "roll, cut, decorate and bake" recipe they already like. Plus, I posted it last year, along with the story behind the recipe.

Instead, here's an easy family favorite that looks really nice on a cookie platter, and tastes fabulous. Plus, it's chocolate. What more could you want in a cookie?


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups chocolate chips and/or nuts (any combination you like)
Powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients, then stir in chips and nuts.
Roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll balls in powdered sugar and place on ungreased pan.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 375.