Outside my window... it's dark and chilly (around 20 degrees). We got another dusting of snow over the weekend to keep things looking pretty and white. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I am thinking... about coffee and prayer. I tend to see my morning prayer time as one more item on my schedule/to do list, rather than something that is as necessary for my soul as coffee is for my body in the morning. I so look forward to my morning coffee, and I want to experience that same desire for my morning prayer time.
I am thankful for... my spiritual director. I have been blessed with three great priests since my college days when I fell in love with and was re-converted to my Catholic faith. The growth I have experienced and the blessings the Lord has showered upon me through these priests has been one of the greatest gifts in my life and has made me the person I am today.
From the school room... We're finishing up a few things today and tomorrow and then taking a break until after the holidays. Yeah!
From the kitchen...We spent most of Saturday baking. We made chewy-chews (Santa's favorite, if you didn't know), swedish balls (a variation of Russian tea cakes), peanut butter blossoms, and spritz. The kids also dipped pretzels and made peppermint bark. The dough is ready for our gingerbread men and our sugar cookie cut-outs, which we'll hopefully get to today. I really enjoyed baking with the kids this year. I think it was the first year where it was actually helpful to have them helping -- you know, when kids "help" sometimes the job takes longer. In fact, the Older Girl was so proud of herself because she made the chewy-chews all. by. herself. including measuring the ingredients, mixing them, putting them in the oven, cutting them, and rolling them in sugar. The Younger Girl and The Boy did the pretzels and the peppermint bark with almost no help from me, too. They took turns mixing and dipping and sprinkling. The Boy's favorite part of the whole day was smashing candy canes for the peppermint bark. The Baby ate her first Christmas cookie last night -- a spritz.
I am wearing...polka-dotted fleece jammie pants, a T-shirt, my robe and slippers.
I am creating ... a menu for Christmas Day. It will be my first time hosting. I'm leaning toward beef of some sort -- turkey says Thanksgiving and ham says Easter in my mind. Any suggestions?
I am going... to take the kids to get a Christmas present for Daddy. We spent most of yesterday at the Mall of America finishing our shopping (I know, I know -- I don't like shopping on Sundays either, but it was the only day we have Daddy's help, which I needed for the siblings to be able to pick out something for each other). As our family gets larger, I'm having trouble figuring out how to do a present exchange between the siblings. I want them to experience the giving part of Christmas, since they are so spoiled in the receiving part of it, but it's getting too expensive for them to each buy something for the other three and dad and mom, and they're not really old enough to draw names and keep it a surprise for a month. What do you other large families do?
I am hoping... to not be too stressed this week and to get enough sleep to enjoy the celebrations.
I am hearing... The Baby just starting to make some noise upstairs.
Around the house...things have stayed largely picked up all week! Amazing! I think everyone is enjoying the peace of the Christmas tree and lit candles and has a little more motivation to keep things looking nice. My husband gave me an early Christmas present this weekend -- a space heater for under my desk. Our schoolroom is an addition and has three walls to the outside and no basement underneath it and so very little insulation. I have been freezing, so my DH put plastic on the windows, and between that and my space heater, work should be much more comfortable -- it's hard to type when your fingers are frozen.
One of my favorite things... a good story that ends well. Here's one for you: Last Monday we attended Bishop Sirba's ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Duluth. We left Monday morning and stopped for brunch on our way north. It was a cold day, below zero, so I left the kids in their sweats and had them change into their dress clothes in the van when we arrived. After they were ready, I took the three oldest inside while my DH grabbed The Baby. As he was walking away from the van, he checked his pocket for his keys to lock it and realized the van was still running -- because it was so cold, we had left it running while the kids were changing. He opened the passenger side door and grabbed the keys and locked it. The liturgy was beautiful (two and a half hours, but the kids did really well, because it was in an arena with stadium seating and they could actually see, plus Bishop Sirba is someone they know, so they were pretty excited). There was a public reception following the ordination in the same building and we were also there for another couple of hours. We ran into a lot of people we hadn't seen in a long time, which was nice, and we were able to receive an episcopal blessing from the new bishop.
The Girls with The Handmaids of the Merciful Heart of Jesus -- my girls LOVE these women, and I thought it was so cute that they were coincidentally dressed just like them!
The biggest disappointment of the day -- the "photographer" didn't wait for the camera to focus!
We headed back to our van around seven. The kids are ready to go at this point -- it's been a long day and everyone is tired and hungry. The van will not start. Apparently when my DH grabbed the keys (remember it was from the passenger side), he left the lights on (no little alarm goes off if the driver's side door is not opened). We have never done this before. The parking ramp was almost empty. We could not find our jumper cables or anyone else that had any. We headed back to the ballroom where the reception had been held. I stayed there with the kids, while my DH went back to the ramp to try to find someone to jump us. By now, the reception was over and Bishop Sirba was leaving with Bishop Christensen of Superior, Wisconsin, also a friend of ours. They asked why we were still there. I told them. Bishop Christensen said, "I've got jumper cables -- where's Matt?" So ... the bishop headed to the parking ramp in his SUV and I headed there on foot. It was taking a while in the cold to get the van to start, so Bishop Christensen suggested he take me and the kids over to the hotel where the priests and family members of Bishop Sirba were having dinner. So ... we transfer the carseat, The Baby screams the whole way over, I'm saying to the kids in my head, "Please behave, please behave," knowing I'm asking a lot after this long day. We end up having a wonderful dinner -- steak and salmon sure beats McDonalds in the car, which was our original plan. The kids were great. A priest friend we haven't seen since college moved over to our table to join us.
goofing around with Father J at the reception
but behaving nicely most of the time
We thanked the new bishop for letting us crash his party. We got home safely sometime between midnight and one. The kids slept the whole way home. All's well that ends well. And now we have a great story to tell.
DH with Bishop Christensen and the jumper cables
A few plans for the rest of the week: Finish the dozen or so Christmas cards that require a special note. Finish our Christmas cookies. Mail packages to relatives out of town. Get my haircut. Wrap presents. Grocery shop. Attend the Archbishop's Christmas party. Transform our Advent tree into a Christmas tree. Celebrate the birth of Our Lord with family and friends!
Outside my window... it's cold (below zero with the wind chill) and snowing lightly -- we got an inch or so during the night and the plows just went by.
I am thinking... about what to pack for our trip today.
I am thankful for... my Sunday afternoon nap yesterday -- I can't remember the last time I slept for over an hour in the middle of the afternoon!
From the school room... We've stayed caught up on our language arts and are working on some division drills. The kids are almost done making the ornaments they will give as gifts and are also working on some homemade Christmas cards.
From the kitchen...absolutely nothing today -- we're going to be gone from about 9 to 9.
I am wearing...pink fleece jammie pants, a white cami, and my robe and slippers.
I am creating ... a photo calendar to give as a gift -- I give my Gramma one every year.
She loved her husband. For years, she took care of my grandfather, who was suffering from Alzheimer's. They were together in their home until the end. Such was their love. And I think it's a testament to her that when he died, not only did all of their sons and spouses make it to the funeral in New York, but all fifteen grandchildren and all four great-grandchildren made it as well (from as far away as California and Australia). In fact, everyone made it there in time to say good-bye to him before he died and to be together at that moment. He was never alone in his hospital room.
She raised five sons (that's enough in my book to make her amazing -- some days it's a struggle not to kill my one and only). And she always had amazing gardens, both at their home and at their lake place -- flowers and vegetables.
I want to be like her as I age. She's still living in her home. Though she's not driving anymore, she gets out of the house when she can (including to the family wedding, where the picture below was taken, about a month ago -- New York to Illinois). She strives to keep herself mentally alert and physically strong. I still can't beat her at Scrabble!
She turns eighty-eight today. Happy Birthday, Grandma! And may Our Lady, whose Immaculate Conception we also celebrate today, smile down on you and grant you peace!
I found these at Sam's Club over the weekend. My husband thought I was getting them for company over the holidays. Not so. They are soooo yummy! They are my new get-through-the-after-lunch-sleepies-and-get-some-work-done treat.
Hey, Christine, they're a "natural source of flavanol antioxidants" -- that's good for the baby, right? And they're chocolate -- that's good for you, right?
Outside my window... it's cloudy and in the low-twenties. There is a winter storm watch in effect starting tomorrow afternoon -- yeah! I hope all the brown grass and dead stuff gets covered with a nice thick white layer.
I am thinking... about what is better: stability or opportunity? Having kids, if you had to choose between a stable job in a smaller-than-you-were-used-to city without family or a take-it-a-year-at-a-time job in a major metropolitan area with family nearby, which would you choose? And why?
I am thankful for... coffee. Enough said.
From the school room... We're mostly concentrating on language arts and math during Advent. During the times we're usually doing other subjects, we're decorating and making Christmas presents and addressing cards and wrapping and baking and going on field trips and all those other fun December projects instead. I'm trying to let go of the need I feel to do everything and really try and enjoy some of the things we can as a homeschooling family.
From the kitchen...We went to Sam's Club yesterday and the freezer and pantry are full, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
I am wearing...old jeans, a Walt Disney World T-shirt, and tennis shoes. And I didn't do my hair after I got out of the shower. There is a lot of cleaning and hauling decorations out of the basement that needs to get done today.
I am creating ... a decorated house. It's more difficult for me to decorate for the first time in a new house -- things don't have a place where they "usually" go. Last December is when we moved here, and I was pregnant, so we put up a tree, but that was about it.
I am going... to take all three older kids to dance lessons tonight. The girls will stay for their tin whistle lesson -- they have their first recital this coming Sunday. In between running them back and forth, I hope to get to the grocery story and/or Target, and maybe Walmart and the library.
I am reading... (and enjoying) Destination Bethlehem with the kids each evening.
I am hoping... that The Baby starts sleeping through the night again soon. I don't know what her deal is. Part of the problem is that she has to share a room with my husband and me. When I would normally let her fuss a little, like I did with the other three, it's just easier to get her and feed her so she's quiet. I can sleep easier nursing than I can listening to her fuss. But it's still sleep interrupted. My husband and I joke about suffering from IISD (Infant Induced Sleep Deprivation).
I am hearing... the kids out in the yard, picking up EVERYTHING, before it gets buried in the snow tomorrow. About a month ago, a friend who was moving dropped off a pile of miscellaneous pieces of wood for us to burn. He stacked it next to the garage and the kids have been using that wood to "build" things around the yard ever since. They are none too pleased to have to dissemble their creations and haul all that wood into the garage and stack it neatly. But they should sleep well tonight.
Around the house...decorating is a work in progress -- it always seems to get so messy during this stage -- half-unpacked boxes of decorations, half-packed boxes of things to put away until after the holidays. The tree is up, but not decorated yet. The kids' rooms are in shambles. What are your thoughts about harping on room tidiness? Strive to keep the common areas clean and ignore their rooms and let them deal with the consequences (inability to find things they need when they need them, for example)? Hopefully they will figure out for themselves the benefits of keeping their things picked up. Not let them do something else until their room is clean (e.g."Your room must be picked up before I will take you to dance tonight.")? Make it part of the daily routine -- it has to be picked up before dinner each night? I've tried all these things, but can't figure out which works best. Suggestions?
One of my favorite things... lots of snow in the month of December.
A few plans for the rest of the week: Finish decorating. Finish Christmas shopping. Attend special events related to Bishop-elect Sirba's ordination a week from today. Please pray for him, by the way.
Here is a picture-thought I am sharing:
All four kiddos sharing storytime last night. Ahhh...
If you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or godparent to one of my kidders, you may not want to read this post or look at the pictures until AFTER Christmas.
Every December, my kids enjoy making ornaments to give their loved ones for Christmas. As they get older, and more proficient, it's enjoyable for me, too. Today we ran to Michaels (and I quickly remembered how much I abhor going near any store in December, especially on a Saturday). They each picked the ornament set they wanted to make this year. I was not surprised The Girls chose beaded ornaments; I was surprised that The Boy did too. And now that The Baby is crawling, oh what fun it was to make sure all those tiny little beads stayed on the table and safely out of her reach. It was a peaceful afternoon though -- The Baby mostly slept and the older kids sat at the table together, listening to Christmas music, beading.
We've been busy, busy, busy! Here are some highlights from the last week and a half.
--- 1 ---
We have started a new Wednesday routine that the kids and I are really enjoying. Our neighborhood coffee shop has muffins for $1 (usually $2.05) and free refills on coffee on Wednesdays, so we've been stopping on the way home from Mass, since we walk right past it on our way home. I splurge on a mid-week coffee and we share some muffins -- they're ginormous. Some Wednesdays one of the Brothers will join us; some weeks Father joins us. Last week, Father had some friends from California visiting for his installation Mass and they joined us too. Her sons were such kind boys (my girls are used to the rougher kind and were very pleasantly surprised). And she put The Baby to sleep! in a coffee shop! I'm supposed to pray that if it's God's will her husband will consider a move to Minnesota. They would be a great addition to our parish.
--- 2 ---
Thursday was Thanksgiving, of course. We spent the first half of the day in the car driving to Milwaukee. It was a very easy trip! The kids were playing nicely and even The Baby was content. We shared a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with friends. The kids continued to play nicely, which is a change (it's usually boys versus girls with this group). And after the kids were in bed, we stayed up too late visiting. We had a wonderful time! I am so grateful to have these friends in my life. No matter how much my family and friends love me and try to help, no one understands my life better right now than another wife of a graduate student with young kids. Thanks so much, Abe and Janet!
Friday we spent most of the day driving to Columbus, Ohio. We were able to get together for a very nice visit with our friend Bishop Campbell at his residence before Mass at the Cathedral Saturday evening. When he was an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, we had a tradition of having him over for dinner shortly after the birth of each child, and so we have a picture of him holding each child. We now have one of him and The Baby to add to our collection.
--- 4 ---
Sunday was the Older Girl's big competition day. She placed 13th out of 70! She was very pleased, and we were very proud of her. To see the tears of joy in her eyes was something I will never forget -- I don't think I've ever seen her so happy.
with her classmates
with her teacher
--- 5 ---
Monday was a thirteen-hour haul to get home -- not as pleasant as the trip out. Tuesday we went on our annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. Last year we got a Balsam; this year I had to go back to a Frazer Fir, the cadillac of Christmas trees I've heard it called -- it smells good, you don't bleed when decorating it, it has many small branches to hold our many (!) ornaments, and it doesn't lose needles easily, even when we have it up from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany!
Older Girl aiding Dad
this year's Perfect Tree
too much fresh air -- lulled to sleep on the hayride back
warming up with cider and cookies
--- 6 ---
I am almost done with my Christmas shopping -- and I haven't stepped into a single store yet!!!
--- 7 ---
The Baby helped me unpack from a busy week and kept me company in the basement while I dug out some of our Advent decorations. Stay tuned!