"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
(1 Jn 4:16)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas Meme

I saw this on Dawn's blog and couldn't resist.

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
I like both, but my better half would rather I stayed away from the hot chocolate when I am pregnant.
2. Turkey or Ham?
We've done both. This year, we are planning on Turkey (that is if the little one in my womb doesn't make an appearance to prevent us from doing so ~ I wouldn't mind in the least).
3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
We definitely get a real tree.
4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
Yes, colored icicle lights and a nativity scene.
5. Snowball fights or sleddin'?
6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
I used to really enjoy going to the mall to shop, but since becoming a mother this has changed. Most of our presents have already been purchased. Those that haven't will be purchased online.
7. Favorite Christmas song?
Without a doubt, my favorite Christmas song is Silent Night.
8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
I like the classics. We enjoy watching them during the Christmas season. My husband usually takes time off, starting on the 24th of December and returning on the 7th/8th of January and we have fun watching Christmas movies sometimes with and sometimes without the children (late night date nights are great).
9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
I used to wait until Advent (The Nutcracker Suite was always listened to throughout the year), but a couple of my children like to listen to Christmas music year round. Also, since my oldest started taking piano lessons, we've been listening to her play Christmas music starting in October.
10. Stockings before or after presents?
Whatever the children want to do.
11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?
Unfortunately, we don't have any.
12. Go to someone else's house or they come to you?
We used to go to our parents' and/or my sister's house, but my husband's parents and my dad moved. My mom passed away almost 5 years ago. Thus, we now spend Christmas at home.
13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
Yes, after dinner and baths.
14. What do you do after presents and dinner?
Play with the children, clean up the dishes, relax, pray the Rosary as a family.
15. What is your favorite holiday smell?
I have to think about this one.
16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Even though I no longer do it, I would have to say walking around the mall. I did not inherit my siblings' athletic skills. If I were to ice skate, most of my time would be spent falling on my bottom.
17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
We wait until Christmas morning. Growing up, we used to open our presents after Christmas Eve Mass.
18. Favorite Christmas memory?
My favorite childhood Christmas memory encompasses my family's Christmas tradition. We would eat a delicious meal, leave early for midnight Mass, hear the beautiful singing of the choir, followed by Christmas Eve Mass. After Mass, we would stop briefly at our spiritual grandparents' house (Alan and Murielle), then we would head home. Upon arriving home, we would open our presents which St. Nicholas had left under our tree while we were out. There was always something miraculous about Midnight Mass that I cannot explain in words. It was my favorite Mass of the whole year.
19. Favorite Part about winter?
The birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day.
20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
Yes, my husband once kissed me under mistletoe.

If you read this, please take the time to answer the questions on your blog.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thank You, God!

Our neighborhood looks like a winter wonderland, but earlier tonight that winter wonderland was anything but inviting. As I do every Monday, I took the children to their Catechism classes tonight. After sitting in the parking lot for about 30 minutes with my two youngest sleeping, I heard my phone playing a tune. I answered the phone and my husband told me that it was snowing (it was not snowing at our parish). He advised me I should get the children and start heading home. I dutifully, did so. Before leaving, a mom stopped me and said, "Don't be scared. You will make it home. I will pray for you." Since I wasn't really feeling scared, I responded politely and placed Jane's comment aside. Little did I know that I needed her prayers and I would soon be terrified.

As I pulled out of the church parking lot, it started to snow. I drove approximately 40 miles an hour on I-5, due to the ice. I felt quite comfortable, until I got off the freeway and started towards my house. Everyone on the main street going towards our house, including me, was driving between 5 and 10 miles an hour. Even though we were all driving carefully, a Safeway truck started to slide, followed by a jeep, followed by me. Thankfully, we had adequate spacing between us. From that point on, my drive towards home was terrifying. Everytime the van drove on a patch of ice, it started to slide. At times, after a slide, it was virtually impossible for me to get the van to drive, let alone drive straight. Most, if not all, of the other big vehicles on the road were sliding like me and we were all leaving plenty of space between each other.

Catherine was on the cell phone to her dad as soon as we saw the Safeway truck sliding, providing him with a blow by blow of what was happening and where we were, while at the same time she prayed in her head. I asked all of the children to pray and I was thankful to hear Bernadette and Brendan doing so (Theresa and Patrick were sleeping). I finally turned into our neighborhood and slowly drove towards our house, where my knight in shining armor was coming out the front door. Parking in our driveway proved impossible to both my husband and me, due to a big patch of ice.

Thank you, God and our guardian angels, for getting us home safely. Please help everyone else to get home safely tonight.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Birthday

to our Thanksgiving Boy!

A belated Happy Thanksgiving

from our family to yours!

Better Late than Never

This summer Catherine and Bernadette enjoyed making some crafts.

Bernadette focused on making flower fairies or little people (she still makes them at times).

Catherine enjoyed quilling (Alice sparked Catherine's interest in this craft which she often returns to when making cards).

I promised the girls that I would share some of their final results on my blog. My husband lovingly took photos of his daughters' crafts. Me, I forgot to share the photos, but hopefully I've made up for my forgetfulness today.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Beauty of Advent II

During Advent, the Church blesses us with several special days that my family celebrates. These days include:
December 6 ~ Saint Nicholas
December 8 ~ The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 12 ~ The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 13 ~ Saint Lucy

On the eve of December 6, the children set a shoe outside their bedroom door and in the morning they find a little something left by St. Nicholas. We spend December 6 making crafts, baking goodies, and reading stories in honor of Saint Nicholas. The craft ideas and recipes for baked goods come from St. Nicholas Center. The children enjoy coloring pictures of St. Nicholas and then brushing their pictures with vegetable oil. The vegetable oil gives the pictures a stained glass look which makes them perfect for hanging in the window of our front door. Another craft that they enjoy is making St. Nicholas figures to place along our mantle. One of our favorite recipes is Ciastka Miodowe (Polish Honey Cakes). However, we do not cut the honey cakes into round shapes. Instead we use various cookie cutters to make shapes that remind us of St. Nicholas. When we are finished with our baking, the children take some of our St. Nicholas baked goods to neighbors. Two books that we have enjoyed reading in the past are, The Miracle of Saint Nicholas and The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale. This year, we might also try reading some of the recommendations made by Jenn Miller at O Night Divine. Finally, we end our day by watching CCC's Nicholas: The Boy Who Became Santa.

The observance or celebration of Mary's Immaculate Conception is a very special day for me, as it is the day that I made my First Communion. It is also the day that my parents made their First Communion many years before me. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we enjoy reading Tomie de Paola's Mary: The Mother of Jesus. We make the crafts that are recommended in Seton's Art 1 for Young Catholics and CHC's A Year with God. We go to Mass and I finish the Immaculate Conception Novena found at EWTN.

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we celebrate Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego (his feast day is on the ninth of December) and Patrick's Baptism Anniversary. We begin our day with Mass. Upon returning home, we read Tomie de Paola's The Lady of Guadalupe and watch CCC's Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe. Brendan usually dons his Juan Diego tilma that his dad and I made for him several years ago and the children act out the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. Finally, we eat Mexican food for dinner, usually tacos.

We never really observed St. Lucia's feast day until last year. Last year, our Little Flowers group met on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to learn about St. Lucy and the corresponding virtue. Prior to the meeting I was racking my brain for a craft. My husband had nixed the first craft that I had planned on doing (a first for him). I went to Michaels, praying that I would find a craft. As I walked up to the store, I saw nine foot evergreen garlands on sale and I thanked the Holy Spirit for inspiring me.

After placing the necessary number of garlands in my cart, I went into the store and added 21 grapevine wreaths (the size that would fit on the head of an 18" doll) to the cart. Next, I located red ribbon and placed it in the cart. After purchasing the necessary supplies, I went home and called my co-leader. I told her that we would be making St. Lucia Wreaths for our Little Flowers' meeting. I explained how and asked if she had any wire cutters that I could borrow. I also mentioned that I was still trying to figure out what we should use for candles. She promptly responded, "White birthday candles." Two days later, the Little Flowers thoroughly enjoyed making St. Lucia wreaths. They began by wrapping the garland, which I had cut in half, around the grapevine wreath. Next, they tied the red ribbon to the wreath, making a loop so that the wreath could be placed and secured on a doll's head. They then tied two more bows on the wreath, using the red ribbon. Finally, they took five birthday candles each and secured them to the wreath, using the wire of the garland. As the girls placed the candles in their wreaths, I repeatedly reminded them that the candles were for decorative purposes only and not to be lit. The moms really liked the craft when they saw it.

Catherine's St. Lucia Wreath 12/12/05

Some of the Little Flowers used their wreath for their dolls. Others used them as an Advent decoration on the dashboard of their family's car. This year, our family will be making a larger wreath (one that will fit on a child's head). On December 13, Catherine will wear the wreath on her head as she brings us breakfast in bed.

I love how God inspires us with ideas that spill over into traditions that enrich our home life.

Related post: The Beauty of Advent

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Beauty of Advent

Each year my family and I look forward to Advent with eager anticipation. When Advent arrives, we set aside our regular learning schedule and focus on preparing for the birth of Jesus. We prepare physically for Christ's birth by slowly decorating our house, focusing on some of the saints' feast days, and baking for neighbors.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I place a wintery tablecloth on our table. Then, we take our Advent tub off of a shelf in the garage and carry it into our living room. The first thing to come out of the tub is our Advent wreath which was given to us by my parents the first year my husband and I were married. The Advent wreath is placed on the center of our table and one of the children places the candles in the wreath.

Next comes Christ's manger and a little box that contains yellow strips of yarn (hay). The manger is placed in front of one of our statues of Mary. Throughout Advent, our children offer their good or special deeds to Baby Jesus by taking a piece of yarn and placing it in the manger. Through their good deeds, they are trying to make a soft bed for the Divine Child. On Christmas morning, the first thing the children do is check to make sure Christ has been born. Then we all gather around the manger and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.

After the manger has been placed in front of Mary, we take out our nativity scene and set it up. The stable is placed in the living room. Mary, Joseph, and the donkey are placed at the opposite end of the room, so that they can slowly travel from Nazareth to the stable in Bethlehem. Each day, one child is chosen to help Joseph and Mary travel. The shepherds are placed in what we refer to as a field. The three wise men are hidden away until Christmas morning, when they will begin their journey. The wise men arrive at the stable on January 6.  The animals are in the stable, save for the donkey. The angels and Baby Jesus are put safely out of sight until Christmas morning.

We hang a traditional Advent calendar on one of our kitchen windows and we organize our interactive Advent calendar. Our interactive calendar consists of a calender from my childhood that contains 24 pockets. In each pocket, I place a figure from our Playmobil Nativity set, trying to make sure that each child will draw something that they feel is fair. As each figure is taken out it is placed in the girls' bedroom or boys' bedroom (we switch each year).

This year, we will add a new tradition to the season of Advent. We will display an O'Antiphon House. The inspiration came from Katherine sharing the houses that she and her children made, here and here.

On Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent), we hang our Christmas lights outside and grace the front of our house with our outdoor Nativity scene (some years, like the one pictured below, we only put a couple of figures out). Our neighbors, across the street, are always happy to see us setting up the Nativity scene.

A day or two before Christmas, we buy a Christmas tree and place it in our living room. My husband and I hang the lights on the tree. After the lights are hung, my children and I decorate our tree. Once the tree is decorated, my husband does a final inspection which usually means moving ornaments so that the tree looks prettier. Then I place our Little People Nativity sets in front of the tree.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, once the children are in bed, I carefully place Baby Jesus in the main manger and in the Nativity manger (along with the angels). I pray that the external decorations affect my family and me internally and help us prepare our hearts for the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ!

Related post: The Beauty of Advent II

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thankful Thursday

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
~ Colossians 3:15-17 ~

I am thankful to God for blessing me with a wonderful life.

I am thankful for my husband who never forgets to tell me that he loves me when he comes home from work.

I am thankful for my dad who brightens my day whenever he calls.

I am thankful for my mom who loved me unconditionally and taught me so much, even when she was dying.

I am thankful for my children who make me smile and laugh and give me an excuse to read children's books.

I am thankful for my older sister. She has a heart of gold and is always willing to help however she can.

I am thankful for all of my siblings. They bring a lot of joy to my life.

I am thankful that our Little Flowers' meeting went well on Monday.

I am also thankful for Alice. For the last three years, my Little Flowers' co-leader (Peggy) and I have been coming up with craft ideas for our Little Flowers' group. This year, I have used three wonderful crafts from Alice. We made Our Lady Star of the Sea (by the sea) in September, Marian Shelves in October, and Saint spoons in November. These craft ideas have been very helpful to this pregnant mother and truly enjoyed by all of the girls.

I am thankful for my husband's co-worker (Brenda) and her son who made a delicious lasagna for our family and sent it home with my husband on my birthday. It was the tastiest lasagna I have ever eaten.

Finally, I am thankful that God called my husband and me to homeschool our children. Living and learning with my children is a wonderful blessing.

Thank you, Diane, for hosting Thankful Thursdays this week.

It's Official!

I am old. Recently, I celebrated a birthday. As I was cutting my cake, Bernadette informed me, "You are an old lady now."

On the other hand, according to Bernadette, my husband is not old.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Please Pray for a Mother with Cancer

After Mass, my friend, Mary, told me about a friend and neighbor of hers, Lori. Lori is a Catholic mother of 14 children (some of her children are adopted). Many of Lori's children are special needs; some have Down Syndrome. Two weeks ago, Mary saw Lori and commented on the fact that Lori looked like she had lost a lot of weight. Lori confided that she had not been feeling well. This week, Lori was admitted to a hospital in Tacoma. She has ovarian cancer.

Aside from prayer, Mary cannot even begin to imagine what this family is going to need. A restaurant in Olympia is trying to organize meals for the family, but their needs go way beyond meals. In addition to homeschooling, Lori used to take her children to various doctors' appointments. As far as Lori's medical care goes, Mary does not know how the family is going to pay for it, as she does not have medical insurance coverage. This famiy is in desperate need of a miracle.

Mary suggested that we ask St. Gianna Beretta Molla for her intercession. A novena to St. Gianna can be found here,

It might also be good to ask for the intercession of Pope John Paul II:
O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him. Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.
- official prayer to ask favors through the intercession Pope John Paul II

Dear God, I know that in your wisdom and goodness you know what is best.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Does He Like to Clean or Does He Like to Mess?

Yesterday, Patrick had me scratching my head. I walked into the dining room and found him spreading peanut butter on the floor. The minute he saw me, he got up and ran to get some wash cloths. He returned and started cleaning up the peanut butter. I had to assist in order to get the floor cleaned.

When I was making dinner, I turned around and saw Patrick pouring water on the floor. My, "Oh no!" prompted Patrick to run and get some rag towels. He returned and cleaned up his mess. Does Patrick like to mess or does he like to clean? I believe the latter is most likely the case.
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