Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Less Staged More Improvised

My second eldest has really been pleased with the way Christmas is unfolding in our home. I think it is because I have kept school to the very basics for December but also because they can finish school quickly there has been more time for baking. We usually never venture out beyond simple sugar cookies decorated with icing and sprinkles of course.

This year I have been a little more deliberate about letting the older girls kind of HAVE the kitchen. They enjoy the freedom and YES I am there helping but I try my best to not interfere. This is pretty easy for me as I DO NOT BAKE. I think I am good at some things...like reading. Other things, baking...oh...so so much room for improvement there.

And yet, if we aren't trying and improving...hmmm

So we have ventured beyond sugar cookies this year!

And baking makes for some very festive pictures:

So baking together has been very sweet and messy but necessary. I introduced the kids to my Christmas baking board on Pinterest and that may have been unnecessary as now we have about 50 cookies picked out that they want to "try". Also, we iced one recently and the girls looked at the beautiful picture of what it SHOULD have looked like on Pinterest and I was having thoughts about how perhaps recipe cards in lovely cursive...no pictures...are the way to go!

Oh, I can get so caught up in the magic of the kitchen that I don't realize when things like rainbow sprinkles don't get put away. I mean...I DID see them on the counter and I think I even saw my toddler playing with them but my mom brain processed it as "lid is on, its a shaker toy" when my brain should have probably sent the thought "take that away from her."


And this wasn't staged. This is more the child taking the lead and we all follow her lead. Very improvised! As I was cleaning up this mess, and she was going "mmmm" and "yummy" I chuckled because...what did I think the next five minutes should have looked like? Why do I think I should be doing something else? Toddlers are such a gift...they pull us into the moment and remind us to be present with our present work and open ourselves to the virtue of the moment. In this moment God sent me patience...again...seems He likes that one for me.

So excited for Christmas!

Love to you all xxoo

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Prepared Meal

Hello! Can you believe we celebrated Gaudette Sunday already? Did you feel the joy of the pink candle?? We are making our way around the wreath!

Our family just had one of the busiest weekends we have had in a very long time, stretching to really Monday evening. We have more fullness this weekend which includes my husband's Coast Guard holiday party...in which I have opted to try an updo I learned off YouTube? Wish me luck!

But last weekend's pace sure left me reflecting on a few things.

This is the part where I tell you about it:

Our Friday evening we were finishing up our last home-school Nativity Play practice and I was determined to just "be" but, alas, we came home only to have my children beg to see a local Army band give a free holiday concert at our church. They had heard about this from their play friends...this is how these things happen! Justin and I thought...free? And I truly enjoy military bands...and well...off we went!

It was a beautiful evening and truly nothing gets my patriotic heart thumping like hearing the national anthem filling the walls of our sanctuary...as if the song is grateful for the space but the Church is grateful right back.

Saturday morning we got up early to go to the tree farm and were able to get a beautiful frasier fir. It was chilly but we were all so pleased with our find. We try to wait until the pink candle to put up our tree so with a longer Advent this year (Christmas being on a Sunday), it was just time!

After we got home I had about an hour and a half to assemble a lasagna for that night (in which my wonderful neighbors agreed to put in the oven for us before we got home) and I made the food I had to bring to my brother-in-law's oyster roast. We celebrated him graduating college and it was a clear and brisk cold but it was so great to visit with Justin's family and my kids always enjoy Pollycove (as we affectionately call it). It is about two hours north for us, hopping over two peninsulas to the Northern Neck on the Chesapeake Bay...where my husband got the bug to always be near water as a boy.

We got home around seven, lasagna done...in which everyone was too full to eat it but we had it for the two crazy nights that were still ahead of us...and we decorated our tree! We also enjoyed our first fire in this new home and, you bet, I was totally in nerd out Christmas mode enjoying my people.

On to Sunday! Sunday we had brunch together and went to Mass....and then we had our beautiful Nativity play, which was so sweet. It was held at our church hall and was kept to close friends and families as we were all very aware this was for many of our children their first theatrical experience (my parents made it down). Written by a young homeschool teen and directed by her and her sister, it was so very perfect. It is AMAZING what happens when adults get out of the way! They did so well! We took video and the kids have already watched it a few times loving it all.

We got home late Sunday afternoon so that I could then hop back in the car to get my sweet middle daughter to her ballet rehearsal. It is a worship dance school so I love the pace and the whole approach. Rehearsal was long but was the only time we were allowed to take pictures.

And then,..schooling on Monday and the actual SHOW Monday evening starting at seven and we got home around ten. It was great because this was her thing...only she did this...it was special and I hope she felt that.

So, maybe that weekend was really nothing and could be easily "topped" in the fullness category by other families, but it felt like a lot of going for us and a lot of not being in our home. I have become so bent on my space and trying to build a culture of leisure that a weekend like this can really throw me off! I remember surveying my home Monday and thinking...how does it look like this?!?!? We weren't even in it! 

Although we were eating great food all weekend and cookies and it was very festive,  there was not a lot of meal time together.

Except...except...there was that brunch around the table Sunday morning. That was a slower morning and we could all wake up and sit in front of the tree a bit. Justin and I enjoyed our coffee together and I made a very simple brunch of biscuits and gravy, grits and eggs and a fruit tray. There was a pomegranate and orange juice, and there was our pink candle. 

Looking back, it was what I wanted to highlight in this post today. I am so grateful we were able to have a meal together, even though it was a mid morning meal! I had made that lasagna thinking that was going to be our meal but the Christmas tree beckoned.

I have read several posts from various blogs about the family meal and over our marriage we really have stressed sitting down to eat together in our home. We do our best to wait for whomever needs to get home from practice and especially if Justin is working late, we just wait. 

I am not the best cook and it is always the area I have a deep desire to improve upon, but I find that it isn't always about the actual meal but more the action of collectively sitting down and praying and catching up. We are, at this time of year, lighting our Advent wreath and singing "O' Come Emmanuel" and I love watching my toddler's face as she takes it all in!

My children sometimes struggle with giggles and manners, we can all be pretty goofy.  I have read about not overly correcting on manners and focusing on the kids too much at dinner because really Justin and I need to talk and it is usually at the table that we talk about the day. My older children can and DO share, and I find it is really MY attitude that sets the mood.  I can wear emotions all too well and so I really try to remain peaceful and yet correcting respectfully if I must.

The children set and clear the table, and Sunday morning we transitioned into getting ready for Mass mode. It is essential to our family to sit and have meal time.

This is where I turn to the Prepared Meal that I most need. I just finished this book

and where I said earlier that my home meal is about the action of sitting together, gathering...where I find about the Eucharist is that...although we are all gathering, this particular Meal is truly about being fed, is truly about what is being Prepared.

So more important than what I am able to "tryout" in my kitchen when I get adventurous with our family meals, is that we, Justin and I, constantly feed them the Bread of Life by getting to Mass on Sunday. There is no question in my mind to do this...but I am wondering...how can we call other Catholics to see this pressing need?

The priest at my goddaughter's First Holy Communion begged the parents of the new communicants to bring their children to Mass and not let them "spiritually starve." I think that is why so many parish's offer SEVERAL Mass options, even on holy days of obligation, our priests do not want us to spiritually starve, they want to provide every opportunity to give us the nourishment we most need.

So, friends, I hope you find great comfort, as I do, that in the beautiful fullness of this time of year, as we try our best to find quiet moments to have our family together, to eat and share, our devoted and thoughtful Mother Church has everything covered in her Eucharistic Feast. It is to her that we go with grateful hearts that she will provide.

Thank you for stopping by this morning!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Look I Give Suggestions!

There is a kindred spirit in Wisconsin, a dear sister in Christ, who texted me the other day asking me about audio books for her eldest daughter who is most likely doing "big girl" pre-K work for her homeschool. From some photos I have seen, some of this work includes "acting out" Little House on the Prairie.

We have developed a love for the written word in this home and it has really been through reading aloud together that this love has happened. We have shared experiences through characters and their struggles and their stories...and we all learn together. My husband reads in the evening to the girls, usually something history based (Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Hiding Place, Man From Mount Vernon) and I cover the classics during the day, usually a chapter at a time (right now we are enjoying The Wind in the Willows). I insist on it all being unabridged, yes, children want the best, believe it.

So, in response to Jennifer, I have relied HEAVILY on audio books in my home, and I do have some suggestions! My eldest, and my introvert, is the one who really loves to sit, by herself, and listen to stories for hours. She is currently listening to The Reign of Terror, a narrative about the French Revolution. But..this is NOT where she started...

I asked her to get her bins down from her closet.

And it made me realize I should probably get my younger ones listening. 

These cds are from Great Hall Productions and I consider them a wonderful investment and addition to our library. I have been successful finding many used. They make wonderful gifts for Easter baskets or Christmas stockings. I love that the little ones can listen to fables or fairy tale stories or tall tales and my older children can sit for long books.

I also want to add that Peter and the Wolf is very much loved here too. We have this version.

God sends us children who are so so different, with unique personalities and varied learning styles...so audio books might not be for everyone! It IS nice however to be listening to a story instead of watching screen.

Hope this helped Jennifer! Blessings!

Waiting for Things to Get Better

I start to get uneasy as the stores put up Christmas decor right after Halloween. They of the great them want us to be thinking of Christmas and all the things we need. Think of your doings, whatever they are, and be sure to buy "_____" to make it all extra special...here is a candy cane to get you thinking about it. We put away Autumn decor and watch the leaves fall.

So with grateful hearts Thanksgiving passes

and then our Church is closing Doors of Mercy and she turns our attention to one purple candle...lit...and hymns of Someone coming and she says, "Yes, beloved, again I will have you looking East."

Something about seeing the second candle lit this morning, made it more real for me. It was as if I was given permission to settle into the season. We are making our way around the wreath. Yes, get comfy in this season, see if you can stay awhile.

We leave the sanctuary and we carry that feeling...that we didn't sing the Gloria this morning...but we will again, and so soon, just like the angels.

I want to bring this feeling of anticipation back to my home. Just this space, my space, that my husband and I are sovereign over. Oh! What will Advent look like this year??? What has it looked like so far?

Maybe we take out of a basket of Christmas themed stuffed animals for the children...

And then we set bait for the ants (since they are finding your den such a cozy space)...

This all looks so different from home to home. My first goal though, this Advent, is to make sure I'm in it! My home that is. None of these special moments will happen if I'm pulled away from this space. And BELIEVE me...this beautiful historic place I'm in has so much to offer when it comes to Christmas towns and grand illuminations and parades. I see it all beckoning to us from the newspaper and social media shares. I was struggling with if or how or when we would do any of the happenings that seem so fun and then...these are how these things go... this one got a fever after that first purple candle was lit.

And life is slower when our young ones get sick and clingy...life has a way of turning and focusing on the essential. The one whose head is so warm to touch is the gift...the reason to simply say no thank you to all the happenings. All the reasons to leave your space.

No. She is going to needs lots of rocking and time to just lay. She can't always say or find words for the pain she is feeling, the throbbing and the chills so it comes out as a whimper...and just a need to be held and cuddled by the one she calls mama.

And I find myself in a deep work called "nurture." All of a sudden my homeschool week is shot and I am grateful for math and The Wind in the Willows.

Curious George has a Christmas special and I turn it on..again.. without shame.

It isn't surviving, it is waiting...waiting for things to get better...and maybe, when I thought this whole sick toddler week was a pretty lousy way to start this holy season I see it is actually a perfect way to start.

Advent is about a people waiting for the Light.

Waiting and anticipating and preparing for the time when all things will be better. And He keeps His promise!

So...she is feeling well now, with a bit of a runny nose, but I am so thankful.

I was thinking I have very high expectations for a "Dicken's" type atmosphere in my home as Christmas approaches and God always finds a way to ground me a bit, He finds a way to help me prioritize...and grow...and focus on the essential.

God Bless You my friends!

Friday, November 4, 2016

More on Yes

This post is kind of related to my last post. I was thinking about how we might hold back part of ourselves, in our marriage, out of fear of what lies ahead. I like being aware of our holding back. We don't always have to have SOLUTIONS you know, or make a change...we could simply sit with it and say..."hmmm...yes, I sure am holding back right now."

My husband and I did NOT stop at two children, and so, I feel like I always ask the question of myself when someone asks ME the question, "Are you going to have anymore?"

I seem to always not really know. Who even knows these things?

Well, all I can say is I take complete comfort in knowing that...

Our Lord will wait for our yes.

He will wait for your yes.

One of the most comforting images of Our Lord that has saved me tremendous heart ache as I wrestle with this Catholic marriage and commitment to openness to life, is the image of God as gentleman.

I can't believe I am going to admit this but one of my guilty pressures is watching engagement videos on YouTube. Ha! You aren't even surprised! Part of me thinks, “Ah this is such a private moment! This is so special this very HUGE question!” and then I find I am clicking play again.

There is usually a profession of love in words, and yet the gentleman is compelled to not only speak these words of love, but to say it with his body as well. He might not even get it that he is about to speak volumes with more than just the symbolism of a “proper engagement,” he is literally saying I am making myself small before you…to ask for your hand in marriage.

He kneels. He kneels small before her. And she usually, as the knee goes down, the unsuspecting bride clasps her mouth. No seriously, watch the videos, she is speechless? I am not sure what the reaction of covering her mouth means…maybe it means, “I have no words, right now in this moment!"

But she DOES have a word! And I only watch proposals with a yes! (although, for shame, there are marriage proposal fails that have gone viral).

I wonder though…I wonder at this yes that she gives so readily. It doesn’t always happen that way. Read any number of Jane Austen novels and you will see a waiting that happens. Darcy waited for Elizabeth.
The tall cadet with the kind brown eyes will wait for you to start speaking to him after he professed his love to you in a stairwell at the academy. He will later affectionately call it your trip to Jupiter, even though you deep down know it was a very painful time for him. He made a confession of love, calling it an ocean, and then he waited for you. He waits for you and so fifteen years late you have five babies together.

A friend told me once that God is the perfect gentleman. I find great peace that knowing as a true gentleman, God would never force himself on me. That he would wait patiently for my yes.

I say this also wanting it to be very clear to you, that if he is asking this yes of you, he will pursue you. You are His prize. We think Pride and Prejudice is romantic? If God is placing on your heart a call to new life, this my friend is the greatest adventure of all, and he will pursue you. 

It is just nice if we can be aware of all this. His pursuing. Your holding back.

God Bless xxoo

Friday, October 28, 2016

Our Yes

A few nights ago we had a double baby shower to celebrate two beautiful mamas in my Bible study group. I hosted in my basement, which turned out to be the perfect intimate setting we needed for laughs and tears and sharing our hearts. The twinkle lights and decor reminded my son of the atria in Juneau...he said to my husband, "Mama made an atrium down here!" Yep, I cried at the dinner table when I heard he had said this. I thought the shower pictures would be fitting for some of my thoughts today.

Beautiful and delicious cake made by Sheila

In a social media saturated world, we can’t help but look around at the lives of others. Family size is just there! And when your heart has the stirrings of wanting to be more open to life, counting how many children and calculating the spacing of said children becomes easy mommy math.

True. Except that we don’t always know the true size of any family unless we are privileged enough to hear the story of each mother as she tells who has grown under her heart and who has grown IN her heart.

By under her heart, I mean babies and children who were here and are no longer visible materially in this space but have gone on before the rest of the family. Miscarriage. Stillbirth. Sickness. Tragedy. All such real crosses. I have sat humbly in the presence of these brave mothers. They walk with a family that is missing someone and yet so very present.

 Loss can even occur IN a heart. I recently befriended someone who “lost” in a way, a little girl she was paired to adopt overseas and  had become very attached to only to have her torn away because of a change in circumstances, her file was moved along…in a sea of adopting files. And the mama shared this with tears welling in her eyes. I share this hoping you will always see through these eyes when you start sizing up families.

So in our one minute world, we see and we size up, it just happens. We compare and we look at your family and at mine.

Where is your yes? Where is hers?

She said yes nine times! She said yes to a four sibling adoption!?!

If she can do that many children and be so happy, why is my yes SO hard then?

(Hey! Be careful putting others on a pedestal you comparer you!)

Oh be so gentle with yourself!

With her yes came the graces, they are not yours to have but hers.

I wonder, dear reader, if you can turn from contemplating on not being able to say yes at this particular moment to affirming hers. Can you even believe it? Yes, make all that you see in her yes..not about YOU!

If you or your husband are struggling with a call to more children, can you be a blessing to those who have children?

Can you rejoice when she first tells you she is having her ninth? Can you give big hugs? Can you say, “Congratulations! How can I help you?”

You are life giving when you bring a casserole. It might be simple comfort food to you, but to her it will taste like the best meal in the world…because she didn’t have to make it!

When she has her third, can you have her other two toddlers for a playdate so she can be with just baby? When you drop her children off at the end of the playdate, can you empty her trash can…without being asked?

You don’t have to even do a “work of mercy”, it can be as simple as kind eyes in Mass at the back of the narthex with a whisper “Your baby is beautiful.”

If you are not at a moment where you can say yes, can you find moments where you cheer on other mamas in their yeses! I have walked many months of my life holding back from our Lord because I felt what He was asking of me at the time was too big. If I could serve my friends with little ones, I found a bit of comfort in knowing I was making their life giving love choices feel even the slightest bit easier.

There is a woman who walked this earth, it was the land of Israel to which she called home. She made room in her heart for everything with her yes, the whole of humanity, including you.

Oh the Blessed Mother, dear reader, allow yourself to rest in the heart that pumped blood to our Lord and Savior. Allow her maternal heart, full of grace, to comfort you and your journey to yes.

God bless.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Battle to Remember a Battle

St. Michael's feast day was late September and a few of my mama friends and I schemed up a massive nerf war in order to celebrate St. Michael's awesome victory over Satan. It happened a few weekends after the actual feast day, but we all prayed St. Michael's prayer at the beginning, which somehow seemed to make everything (as in it being well past his actual feast day) alright.

It was actually very easy to pull off as everyone pitches in. We bring food but keep things simple. One family, who are more seasoned in nerf wars, cleverly ordered tons of ammunition and safety goggles.

The four families had 23 kids between them, so the dads were certainly outnumbered.

We moms took turns watching the littles and joined in every now and then to support our men

 and our parish seminarian also helped out the dads.

It was so much fun! Our backyard joins with our friend's backyard so the kids already had an intricate fort complex in the woods and all the terrain was just very appropriate for this kind of endeavor.

So...no one got hurt! I look at these pictures and I am thankful for Catholic culture and large families. It is so easy to speak large family when you are with other large families...like...let's keep it simple, I will bring mac'n cheeses, let's make sure if you get "hit" you can go to the healing area and count and be better so noone has to be upset, can we add cupcakes and a happy birthday at the end for one of our eleven year olds? YES!

  It wasn't a trip to a theme park but it did require dads who can give up Sunday football to play...and maybe some taquitos.

 God Bless!