Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa Claus Goes to Our Church

Santa Claus is an usher at the noon Mass at our parish, except during November and December when he's extra busy.  Kids who attend the noon Mass are used to seeing him there all year 'round, and have been known to tell their friends that Santa Claus goes to our church.

Santa wears red (and sometimes green) regardless of the season, and is always happy to take a break from handing out bulletins after Mass to talk to children.  Last November, before his schedule forced him to switch to an earlier Mass for a couple of months, he gave out little cards to the children with his picture on it and the message, "I saw Santa today, and he said I'm on the Good List."

On the Sunday after Christmas, Santa is back in his usual spot as an usher, sporting his red parka.  You can see that the kids are all watching him:  Santa is here!  After Mass, they like to go and greet him.  Little Brother makes it a point to thank Santa for his Christmas gifts.

I'm grateful this year that the magic of Santa Claus is still alive in my home.  Little Brother and Adventure Boy still believe.  In fact, just before Christmas, there was almost a fistfight in here when one of the other Street Urchins suggested that Santa might not be real.  It was 3 to 1 FOR Santa, I'm happy to report.  I'm sure that our Christmas Eve tradition, as well as Santa's quiet presence in our church, have plenty to do with that.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Santa gave me a new camera for Christmas, which is great because my old camera bit the dust just before Little Brother's First Communion, and the crummy point-and-shoot I bought, in a hurry, so I could get pictures of that special day was, well, crummy.

Little Brother was happy to take it off my hands. For an 8-year-old, it does just fine.

Middle Sister has been enjoying my camera. She's 15 today, so I trust her with it. She has a good eye. I love this picture of some of my favorite Christmas decorations.

Here's a shot of my Christmas tree, which I briefly got to light up again.  The lights went back out sometime yesterday.  Apparently I'm burning through the extension cord.  Guess it's time to use 2 cords for this many lights (about 1600).  I took a break from cookie baking on the 23rd to replace the cord that I had originally used.

Last, two pictures of the results of the snowstorm.  There will be more later but I don't want to go outside yet!  One is of my across-the-street neighbor's house; I thought their Christmas lights looked cool in the snowstorm.  The other is around the edge of my pool, where the 40-mph-winds created a moat, exposing the rocks around the sides.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not According to Plan

Today was supposed to be Christmas: The Day After. In my family, it's the last of the Great Three Days of Christmas. We spend Christmas Eve with my husband's extended family, Christmas Day at home, and Christmas: The Day After with my side of the family (my parents, brother and sister and their families, one great-aunt and a cousin.)

Mother Nature, however, had other plans. By dinnertime last night we were hearing snow predictions in excess of 10 inches. I was not happy. Snow is nice, when you have no other plans.

Sure, we have plenty of snow shovels, as well as enough milk, bread and eggs (why is it that supermarkets are always emptied of those items at the first flurry?) We have Snow Remover Models 18 and 15 (otherwise known as Big Brother and Middle Sister) and I know where I put the snow boots at the end of last year's very snowy season. So that's all good.

But I've been pretty bummed all day that I didn't get to have that Christmas with my family. It's always a fun time, and I know I missed out. Contrary to those old AT&T commercials, long distance is not necessarily the next best thing to being there.

Welcome to my pity party, and merry Christmas! I hope we get to have Christmas with my family before Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Thing on the List

There is SO MUCH on the list right now.
Haircuts for me and Little Brother
Wrap gifts
Do Tons o'Laundry
Freelance work here and here
And, of course, all the baking

So when the Christmas tree went dark the other night, I left it for another day. I think it's going to be left for a few more days unless someone else decides they want to troubleshoot the extension-cord situation. The tree's pretty without lights--prettier with lights, but it's loaded with colorful ornaments and that might just have to do.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grade-School Drama

...of the cutest kind.

The primary grades at Little Brother's school put on their Christmas play tonight. It's always a "play within a play" in which something happens that might prevent the Christmas pageant.

This year Little Brother played the Grinch/Scrooge character--actually a politician more concerned with getting votes than with the Christmas story. He wore a suit--and a "red power tie." And a top hat. My big kids said he was "totally a boss." He had some great one-liners in his part and nailed the comic timing.

The rest of the play was enjoyable because it was a primary-school Christmas play. That means it came complete with:
--can-can dancers that danced in opposite directions and sometimes kicked each other
--battery-operated candles, some of which did not light
--two kids on the top riser that nearly came to blows
--dueling verses of the same Christmas carol (kids were apparently confused about whether to sing verse 2 or verse 3. Both were going at once.)
--hippies, and a "rich couple" named Thurston and Lovey. The kids didn't get that joke.
--two kids who spoke in a strange accent (but who don't in real life.)
--lots of adorable off-key singing
--and a light-up star.

The first, second, and third graders did a great job. The play was lots of fun to watch--and the prelude by the pre-K and kindergarten was nothing short of adorable. Little kids + carols + reindeer headgear = completely cute.

Communication Breakdown

During the past two weekends, I've had occasion to be in the church vestibule during parts of Mass.

Last week, I slipped out during the homily to use the restroom. (I know, it's better to wait, but sometimes you just...can't.) This past weekend, I was over at our other "worship site" helping to set up the Cub Scout Babka sale at a different Mass than the one I actually attended.

But both times, I noticed something strange. Different people, same situation.

There are people who lurk in the vestibule of the church (or even outside the front door) until it's nearly time for Communion. Then they slip in, get in line for Communion, receive, and leave.

I stayed in the vestibule during the entire homily last week rather than be obvious about walking in and out of church--I waited until everyone was starting to stand for the Creed to slip back into my place in the choir area. The whole time, a woman with a son (Little Brother's age) were in and out of the vestibule. Sometimes they were outside the church, other times in the vestibule. During Communion, they were in line to receive and then out the door (they had to pass right by me to do this.)

Yesterday, I arrived around the "Lamb of God" to help set up the babka to be sold after Mass. A woman was hanging around the vestibule. She went in for Communion and then came back out, bought her babka, and left.

We've got a big trend at that particular "worship site" of people leaving just after Communion. It's better than it was, but it's still disconcerting to see 1/4 of the church empty out before the final blessing, week after week after week.

There's a big discussion going on right now at the NCR blog on Communion in the hand. From what I've seen in the past two weeks, it's not whether you receive on the tongue or in the hand that's the issue. It's reverence in general. It's understanding that you don't just show up, get in line, receive, and go home--at the very least!

Friday, December 17, 2010

When Genius...Isn't

I usually love iTunes' "Genius" feature, which lets you select a song, and builds a playlist around it from other songs in your library.

This morning I felt like listening to some Christmas music, so I cued up Taylor Swift's "Silent Night" and hit the Genius button.

Along with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Rascal Flatts and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" I also got Toby Keith's "Who's Your Daddy" and Big & Rich's "Comin' to Your City." Scrolling down, I noticed that coming up will be "Rhinestone Cowboy", "A Boy Named Sue" and "Duelin' Banjos."

What a strange mix. Genius has failed the IQ test this time.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Every year that weather permits, our Secular Franciscan Fraternity hosts a "Live Nativity at Greccio" celebration.

Last time we had it, it was in a new place, indoors, without live animals, but we had 117 people to enjoy the Live Nativity. This year, it's going to be even more different.

It will no longer simply be a Live Nativity, but will be incorporated into our parish's "Catholics Come Home" Christmas Carol Festival. That means that it's going to turn into a Battle of the Bands of sorts, with all 3 parish ensembles (Religious Education Kids' Choir, Adult Choir, and Folk Group) all participating.

A few diehard Greccio participants have bowed out this year--the changes are just too much for them. I kind of want to join them, but I'm bound to hang in there with both the Folk Group and the Secular Franciscans. And I do have to say that I'm relieved for us Seculars, because the membership in general is getting up in age and it's hard for many of them do to much to help with the event. I was getting pretty tired of handling most if it myself. This year, my role is much more limited, and those SFOs who are physically able will bring cookies and help hand out (and collect) costumes.

Tonight I have to go over to the church to represent the Folk Group as we do a walk-through of the whole event to figure out how long it will take. I know it's going to be a bittersweet time. I'm going to have to compromise, as if I haven't done enough of that already with this event and this parish merger.

And in the end I'm going to have to hope that this event touches the hearts of those attending and those participating. After all, "that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Competitive Much?

Little Brother and Adventure Boy are busy playing a game.

Little Brother: "You just moved that so I wouldn't win."

Adventure Boy: "No, I didn't! I moved it so I would."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tiber River Review: Motherless

Brian J. Gail's novel Motherless, sequel to Fatherless, is a compelling treatment of business-driven advances in medical science.

Set in the present day, this novel is scary--because all of this could happen. I am left wondering exactly how much of this is happening; it's clear that some of it definitely is.

Building on the story from the first book in what is planned to be a trilogy, Motherless picks up several years after Fatherless leaves off. All the major characters from the first book play main roles in the second as well. While this book can stand alone, I definitely think that the first book is important in that it sets the stage for plot events in this one.

While the first novel takes on the entertainment and birth-control industries, this book focuses on reproductive technology and embryonic stem-cell research. I can see this novel having a more widespread appeal, as its plot is more prophetic of what is soon to come if things continue on their current path, rather than blatantly condemnatory of past events (as the first novel in the series was.) However, it is no less challenging to the reader, who will feel encouraged to examine his choices and his conscience. The struggles of the characters in Gail's novels, including the clergy, make them all the more real to the reader and do not fail to inspire.

The third book, titled Childless, is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2011.

WARNING: Don't start reading this book if you're only going to have a little bit of time here and there to devote to it, because you will be sucked in to the story. This book kept me up past my bedtime--I couldn't stop reading it. Highly recommended!

You can purchase this book here.

I wrote this review of Motherless for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

We're getting used to life as a family of 4 now that Big Brother has been living on campus for 4 months. Not that we don't miss him, but we're just getting used to the different routine.

And then something comes along and smacks you in the head. For me, this week, it was St. Nicholas.

I always get the kids a treat for St. Nicholas Day, and put it in their shoe near their bedroom doors. (Parents get a treat as well. Rumor has it that my treat this year will be a Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt bar. Yum. But I digress.) So when I was in the grocery store the other day, I remembered that I needed to get busy shopping for those little treats.

Then I remembered that one of my kids is not going to be here with his shoe outside his door. It's almost worse than not having him here for family dinner or Sunday Mass.

Dorm security being what it is in his urban university, it's not like I can sneak into the third-floor hallway and leave him some treats outside his room. Instead, I had to depend on the US Postal Service. So the other day I filled up one of those Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes with all kinds of yummy things--enough for him and his roommate and some friends to share--and sent it along, with a big note marked on there that said "Do not open until December 6."

It's not the same, but it will have to do.