"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Christmas Daybook

Outside my windows... the snow continues to pile up. The kids spent the last two days clearing off our (very large) deck in preparation for the "significant snowfall" expected starting tomorrow night and lasting through Saturday. It has been a great joy for the kids to have one of the best sledding hills in Bismarck in our backyard!

I am listening to... Christmas music. Unlike most of the rest of the world, who have been listening to Christmas music since the end of October, we just started listening to Christmas tunes last week and are very much enjoying the carols and bells.

I am thinking... about how much I've enjoyed reconnecting with people since finally succumbing to the pressure to join Facebook a few weeks ago.

I am thankful for... my children, and the opportunity they afford me to experience the wonders of Christmas through the eyes of a child (or four).

I am hoping and praying... that my DH has a productive work week next week in Milwaukee, and that the five of us here in Bismarck will survive without him.

From the kitchen... leftovers.

broccoli and cheese fritata and french toast bake from Christmas Eve brunch

our traditional fish chowder from Christmas Eve dinner
(Papa's secret recipe)

ham egg bake and a cherry cheese coffee cake from Christmas Day morning

tri-tip steak and garlic mashed potatoes,
green beans and pomegranate salad with honey vinaigrette
from Christmas Day dinner

and don't forget all the cookies!

Christmas pretzels dipped in almond bark
and sugar cookie cut-outs

spritz and swedish balls

gingerbread men

From the schoolroom... absolute blissful nothingness.

I am creating... defender briefs. I am taking the opportunity while the kids are on break to catch up and work ahead. (Sigh.)

I am reading... The Christmas Tree.

Noticing that ... it was nice to stay at home and celebrate Christmas with my husband and children.

Around the house... some of our favorite Christmas gifts.

gift cards to the American Girl store

Nerf Dart Tag

new "pretties" for her hair and a new "baby"

my Kitchen Aid mixer

a new hat and crocs
(but you would have thought the Dart Tag was for him!)

One of my favorite things... our traditional waiting-to-see-what-Santa-brought photo.

Pondering these words ... of my favorite Christmas carol.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
A few plans for the rest of the week: continue to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas. Our children receive a gift on each of the twelve days. So far this year they've received new jammies (which they always get to open and put on after Midnight Mass). On Sunday they opened tickets to The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which we went to see later that evening (I loved it, by the way). On Monday, they were having so much fun playing safari, it seemed the perfect time to have them open their play silks, for more imaginative fun. And today, whilst cleaning their room, they each received new sheets for their bed.

Some more picture-thoughts I am sharing: the-youngest-putting-the-star-on-the-tree tradition -- The Baby's first time.

For more daybooks, visit here,
and have a very Merry Christmas season!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm Back ...

... to wish you and yours a very blessed Christmas season.

May you have the gift of faith,
the blessing of hope,
and the peace of His love
now and always.

(ready for Midnight Mass)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fear Not

Fear is a powerful thing. It can paralyze. But ...

... if I fear the unknown, I may never know it.
... if I fear rejection, I may miss an opportunity to speak the truth.
... if I fear being hurt, I may miss an opportunity to love.
... if I fear failure or imperfection, I may never try.
... if I fear losing control, I may never learn to trust the One who is really in control.
... if I fear discovering who I really am, I may never know who God is calling me to be.

Isaiah reminds us in the first reading today (41:13):

I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you,
"Fear not, I will help you."


Perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

And growth results.

And life is evident.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

89 years and still beautiful!

Behold ...


... the Handmaid of the Lord.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Advent Daybook

Outside my windows... Jack Frost visited again the last two nights and covered every branch and blade in white. Every time I walk by a window -- morning, noon, or evening -- I marvel at the beauty.

I am listening to... the kids playing outside in the snow. (Well, not really -- they're in bed ... but when I first started working on this post yesterday that's what I was listening to.)

I am thinking... about God's providence. I found out via Facebook this morning (yes, I finally succumbed to the pressure) that the friend I spoke about in this post, who was instrumental in my high school conversion, has found his way back to the Church! God is good. I am always amazed. And I am excited to reconnect with some old friends.

I am thankful for... foam beads to string and sort. (Though I am not as excited about picking them up when they manage to find a way into every room of the house.)

I am hoping and praying... for the Catholics Come Home campaign. There was a time when so many Catholics were so poorly catechized, and, fed nothing solid, many left the Church. Let's pray for our brothers and sisters to return to the faith of their baptism!

From the kitchen... candy cane coffee cake and St. Nicholas cocoa for breakfast yesterday, and St. Nicholas cupcakes for dessert.

From the schoolroom... We've got a list of things to finish before our winter break and (almost) everyone is working diligently to get done early -- The Boy needs a little more motivation. I went to the library this evening and got or requested all the books we need until after the holidays. We finished On the Banks of Plum Creek last week and are now starting By the Shores of Silver Lake.

I am creating... the last few ornaments for our Jesse tree. I started them probably three years ago (!) and am determined to finish them this year!

I am reading... Hannah Coulter (still), along with our school and Advent stuff. (By the way, Gramma, I think you'd really like this book -- ask my Dad to get it for you.)

Noticing that ... there are gray hairs where there shouldn't be (namely, on my head!). Shhh ... don't tell anyone.

Around the house... a few more wintery things are appearing each day. Yesterday, our plain Corelle was replaced by our pretty winter dishes. (Notice the mess on the tablecloth created while mixing St. Nicholas hot cocoa.)

One of my favorite things... how much The Baby adores her Daddy.

Pondering these words ... "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least." (Servant of God, Dorothy Day)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Mass and celebration of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception tomorrow -- one day at a time!

Some picture-thoughts I am sharing: see above.

For more daybooks, visit here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

We love you and we miss you!
Have a great Texas winter!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

the true. the good. the beautiful. week 3.

“That his creatures should share
in his truth, goodness, and beauty --
this is the glory for which God created them.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319

On cultivating truth, goodness, and beauty in our home
one week at a time.

The True: Feeding the Intellect
Saint Nicholas

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Nicholas. Every year the kids get some great chocolate coins and a new book. I found four great books this year on the real Saint Nicholas, including a board book for The Baby. I was so excited! Unfortunately, not one of the books was delivered on time for tomorrow. (I'm guessing they will arrive tomorrow afternoon! Ugh!) So I had to run to Barnes and Noble this evening for Plan B -- four different non-St. Nicholas books. Again, ugh! These books are all good stories, but really I was quite upset about not getting the first set. See, this year is a special year for Miss Rose and Miss Sunshine. This is the year we tell them the truth about Saint Nicholas and allow them to share in the joy of being Santa Claus for their younger brother and sister (hopefully). I remember the year my mom told me ... I was in third grade ... I cried. hard. I am a little apprehensive about how it will go with the girls tomorrow. I have a feeling Miss Rose is going to respond as I did. And I have a feeling Miss Sunshine is going to say, "I thought so." I'm not quite sure how to approach the whole thing. Truthfully, I was hoping one of the books that was supposed to arrive would help me out. Say a little prayer for us, please. And, if you have any helpful hints .... We got a babysitter for the two younger ones and we plan on taking the girls out for a talk and a special treat after dinner tomorrow night.

(As a side, I have mixed feelings about the whole Santa Claus thing. Sometimes I wish we wouldn't have made it such a big deal. But I wasn't where I am now nine years ago when we starting celebrating Christmas with our own children.)


The Good: Forming the Will

Serving our Parish Community

This Sunday was our family's first time serving as hospitality ministers at our parish. It is a great way for the kids to get involved. They passed out hymnals before Mass to people entering the church and they collected hymnals after Mass and handed out the weekly bulletin. There were many opportunities for good lessons: lessons in serving, lessons in greeting people -- "Good morning!" before Mass and "Have a good day!" after -- lessons in making eye contact and having conversations with strangers. And the kids loved being involved (and having special name tags to wear!). The girls also stayed after morning Mass on Friday to help clean the church -- another great lesson in service to our parish community.


The Beautiful: Inspiring the Affections

A Christmas Concert and Opera

This afternoon we attended Christmas at Mary -- the University of Mary's annual Christmas concert. The concert included performances by the concert choir and a brass ensemble, and a performance of Gian-Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act. It is about an impoverished woman and her crippled son, Amahl, at whose home the three kings stop to rest on their journey following the star to find the Christ Child.


(Link up in the comments if you'd like to share what you're doing to bring the true, the good, and the beautiful to your home.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Black Friday Fun

three kids on lily pads

yes, that's me, chasing Miss Sunshine

Baby's first time on a water slide

she loves her "button" -- and it's usually inaccessible because of a onesie

Sunday, November 28, 2010

the true. the good. the beautiful. week 2.

“That his creatures should share
in his truth, goodness, and beauty --
this is the glory for which God created them.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319

As I noted last week, lately I have felt an increasing need to be more intentional about cultivating truth, goodness, and beauty in our home. To that end, I want to share with you what we are doing to bring that about, in the hopes that you might share with me the same.

The True: Feeding the Intellect
It is Advent (!)

It is becoming alarming to me how difficult it is to teach my children the difference between Advent and Christmas. Since the beginning of November, the malls have been decorated. Christmas music is playing. Christmas commercials are running. Cards and gifts are arriving. We are invited to Christmas parties. Come the 26th of December, the decorations will come down, the music will stop, discarded trees will be thrown to the curb. But the season of Christmas will just be beginning! I have been pounding it into the kids' heads that, despite what they see and hear all around them (except in church), IT IS NOT CHRISTMASTIME!!! IT IS ADVENT! A season of preparation. A season of waiting. A season of expectation.

We do everything we can to make Advent a distinct season in our home. We put a tree up on the first Sunday of Advent, but it is decorated with pink and purple lights and ribbon. We add our Jesse tree ornaments, one or two a day, after reading the appropriate Scripture story. On Christmas Eve, we take the Advent decorations off and put on multi-colored lights and Christmas ornaments. It is a lot of work, yes, but it makes the two seasons very distinct. In like manner, I refrain from putting out other Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. We decorate with snowmen and snowflakes and, on December 6, add our stockings and Saint Nicholas decorations, but the red and green "Merry Christmas" stuff doesn't come out until the end. And it stays out until Epiphany. Our stable is out, but Mary, Joseph, and Jesus remain out of sight. There is no star on our tree. We try and keep Christmas music to a minimum. Then during the Christmas season, we play our Christmas music. We stretch out our gift giving -- the children receive a gift on each of the twelve days of Christmas. They always get a new pair of pajamas and an ornament and a magazine subscription. Sometimes the gift is one for all four of them, like a game or a movie.

We are trying to teach the children the truth that Christmas is the season starting Christmas Day and lasting until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

The Good: Forming the Will
Sacrifices and Good Deeds

During Advent, we have a tradition of lining a manger with a piece of hay to represent each sacrifice offered, each good deed done, to prepare a place for the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day. I am always pleasantly surprised by how the children get into this tradition. Just today, they were exceptionally good at Mass, even reminding each other quietly to fold their hands or keep their rears off the pew when kneeling. They cleaned their room together and offered to clear one another's dishes. They volunteered to be last instead of first. And our manger already has a nice thin layer of hay.

The Beautiful: Inspiring the Affections
A Real Tree

Despite the fact we were unable to cut down our own tree this year, we were still able to pick out a live one from a nearby nursery. There is nothing like the fragrance of a real evergreen in our home!

(Link up in the comments if you'd like to join me.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Definition of Excited

Look what I got in the mail! (Click to enlarge.)

The instructions were to purchase one of these. But with the Black Friday deals on Amazon, I had enough left over to get one of these, too!

I have been without a mixer for three holiday seasons (!) -- I have had to borrow one for baking day. I haven't made oatmeal raisin cookies (one of our favorites) since I burnt the last mixer out. I swore (not really) after borrowing a neighbor's KitchenAid, that I wouldn't buy another mixer until I could afford a KitchenAid myself. I can't wait to get baking. And we already have a fajita and margarita party planned for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And Happy Black Friday! (Note: Almost all of my Christmas shopping is done in my jammies at the computer, and I LOVE it!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


I had a junior high teacher who offered extra credit to anyone who would stand up and sing the below song in front of the Thanksgiving crowd before the big meal. It's become a family tradition!

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Turkey dinner, turkey dinner,
Gather 'round, gather 'round.
Who will get the drumstick --
Yummy, yummy drumstick?
All sit down. All sit down.

Chestnut stuffing, cornmeal muffins,
pudding pie -- one mile high!
All of us were thinner,
'Til we came to dinner,
Me, oh my! Me, oh my!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be filled with good company, good eats, and good rest.

And may we all remember, today and always, to give thanks to Our Heavenly Father for the many blessings he has bestowed on us in Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Ready

The turkey is thawing.

The new stuffing recipe is assembled and in the crock pot, ready to go.

The potatoes are peeled and in a pot on the stove.

The back-up gravy packets are bought and secretly stored (just in case ...).

The sweet potato casserole is made and in the fridge, under the green bean casserole.

The cranberry slush is whipped and in the freezer.

The apple pie is on the counter cooling.

The pumpkin pie is in the oven baking.

The kitchen is cleaned up.

I'm grabbing a glass of wine and heading to bed.

Boy (regarding sweet potato casserole): Are you making that for dinner tonight?
Me: No, it's for Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Boy: No ... be serious, Mom.
Me: I am being serious -- it's for tomorrow.
Boy: Seriously? Mom ... I can't wait that long.
Me: Really?
Boy: Really.
Boy (after devouring large spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter that his generous mother handed over in response to his desperate longing (and dimples!)): This is even better than usual!

And so the feasting begins.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember to take time to give thanks to the Giver of all that is good.

Wordless Wednesday - Jack Frost Morning