Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas Eve…DSCF0148
Trimming the tree with the children before Mass…
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Theresa stopped by our house, and she snapped our family picture before we all went to Mass together.
Our parish had Mass at 9pm this year, rather than our traditional Midnight Mass, which actually works out better for us with the children. I joked with Fr. Harvey afterward that we should always have Mass at that time…the kids were so tired, they sat there in a daze, nodding off occasionally. I did not have to correct any of them, not once! lol
We had three priests at this Mass, a very rare occasion for our small parish. Fr. Harvey brought with him two priests from India, and they blessed us by singing Christmas carols in their native language at the end of Mass. It was very different from anything the children had ever heard, and they could not stop giggling. Fr. Harvey also brought his guitar and sang for us “Mary Did You Know”.

After everyone was sound asleep, Sunshine and I placed the presents beneath the tree. Then we stayed up into the wee hours of the morning visiting over chips and salsa. I love these times when I have my oldest girl to myself! We went out sometime after midnight to the corner gas station for some soda to go with our salsa, and witnessed a light snowfall. We knew that all evidence of snow would probably be gone by daylight, but we felt privileged to be able to witness the Christmas snow!

Here is what our house looked in the still darkness of Christmas morning…DSCF0172 It seemed to me that I was only in bed for a minute before the children came bouncing on our bed exclaiming “It’s Christmas!” Here I am, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Not.DSCF0197

The children got something they did not expect…hand-held electronic games! We bought them all Leapfrogs, with games featuring their favorite characters, which help them practice their math, spelling, and other skills. They love them. Mojo played with her Indiana Jones game all afternoon…and didn’t even realize that she was actually doing math. lol Sneaky mama. She also got Hanna Montana and Nancy Drew games. Caveman’s games included Batman and Star Wars. Gem got Dora and Disney Princesses games. Juju got a puppy that talks and plays music. DSCF0199 DSCF0201 DSCF0204  DSCF0203

Sunshine got a digital camera.DSCF0205Bear even got a toy! A Lionel electric train set…DSCF0207  DSCF0219
Mama got a black leather coat and boots, perfume, and pjs with wine glasses on them.

We had lots of good food, including homemade cinnamon rolls, sausage, and bacon for brunch. Dinner was roast with mushroom gravy, squash dressing, green bean casserole, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese, a green jello salad (which was immediately dubbed “Vulcan brains”, lol), and apple pie with ice cream.
DSCF0209(Jan L., if you are reading this, notice I am using a knife and not string! And my cinnamon rolls are still beautiful. ;-P )

We stayed in our pajamas til about 3pm. When we finally stirred around, we went to see my stepmom and Grandma C. The kids got even more toys. Juju loved his wooden blocks, Caveman was kept busy for awhile with his wooden horse puzzle and magnets, Gem added more ponies to her My Little Pony family, and Mojo got a Lite Brite. Which Mama may steal and play with. ;-) Thank you, Grandma Lil!

All in all, it has been a blessed Christmas. While eating our brunch, Little Gem said “Thank you for all this wonderful food, Mama.” That girl melts my heart!
Mojo said “This has been the best Christmas ever!”

But our blessings of Christmas go far beyond gifts and food. The best blessing of all is Christ the Light, illuminating this dark world. Goodness, beauty, warmth, and love would not exist without His light. Christmas (Christ's Mass) is just the beginning of our celebration of Jesus' birth. We will continue to celebrate until the Feast of the Epiphany, where we remember the manifestations of Jesus' Divinity--His finding by the magi, His Baptism, and His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. May you all be blessed this Christmas season!

Friday, December 25, 2009

It’s the Wee Hours of Christmas Morning

Everyone is asleep except me, and the house is very still and quiet. I’m up thinking of what a wonderful night this has been with my family, expecting a wonderful tomorrow, and feeling blessed beyond measure.
I played on my keyboard, something I rarely do in the busyness of my daily routine, but something I do a little more of this time of year. I absolutely love Christmas carols! It occurred to me that I have not made any recordings of myself playing music for my children. I want them to always remember what Christmas sounded like at our house with Mama playing, and I recorded a couple of my favorite carols. The perfectionist in me can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m going to share them here. Bad lighting, bad acoustics, cheap keyboard, mistakes, and all. I left it all just as it is. I figure anyone reading this will understand that my practice time is nonexistent at this point in my life. I also have many little hands helping me play when I turn on my keyboard during the day. ;-) And maybe I will record that soon as well. And maybe I will carve out time to play more often during the coming year.
Anyway…Merry Christmas!

"Silent Night"

"O Holy Night"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Date Night

Every year for our anniversary, Bear and I try to go out on a date. Last weekend was actually our ten-year anniversary, but Bear had to work, and I was on call. No matter, we can celebrate anytime, right?
This weekend, we went to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, since it was the feast day of Our Lady Guadalupe. We also went to Mexico for our honeymoon, so we like revisiting those memories. :-)

After we ate, we went to a pub to hear some live blues. We used to like to do this when we were dating, but I seriously do not think we've listened to any live blues since we've been married! How sad is that?! I guess we've just been busy having and raising kids. Maybe we can make a little more time for some occasional blues.

We ended the night with our tradition of Christmas shopping for the kids. We've already bought gifts for the middle three, so we just needed to buy for the oldest and youngest.
While we were at the dreaded Wal-Mart (which was the only thing open that late, and which just happened to carry the gifts we had in mind), I noticed a bunch of people standing/sitting in the aisle. Of course, being the nosy person I am, I asked why they were hanging out in the electronic aisle at that time of night. Turns out the Toshiba laptops were going on sale for $299 beginning at midnight. What a coincidence; I just happened to be needing a laptop! So I looked at the clock, called the babysitter, and joined the line. Sho 'nuff snagged myself a new laptop for $330, counting tax. A little impulsive, yes, but it's times like this that I am glad I have a job!
While I was in line, I started blogging to pass the time, but I wound up having an interesting conversation with a couple--he had come from a family of ten, and she had come from a family of eight. She told me that they only had one child, but she had always regretted not having more. Anyway, I live for interesting conversations with strangers. :-) I must take after my daddy, huh?
So here I am, blogging on the way home after a very late and fun night. Bear and I are going to have to take shifts napping tomorrow and go to the late Mass.

- Bloggin' from my iPhone. Pardon the typos. ;-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Laundry the Natural, Frugal Way

In my quest to live more frugally and naturally, I’m constantly looking for different ways of doing things. I’ve seen women on different internet internet boards through the years talk about making their own laundry detergent, but I didn’t think it would be something I wanted to put the effort into making myself. Until I discovered that two of my real-life friends, Catherine and Suzanne, make their own. They assured me that it’s not that hard, and with their prompting I decided to try it for myself.  There are several different recipes on the web, and I’m experimenting to see which one I like best. But yeah, making your own laundry detergent really is not hard, and it really is a frugal way to get your clothes clean.
So the next logical step was finding a natural dryer sheet to soften and cut down on static.
Well, here ya go…wool dryer balls. Here is a tutorial to make them. A $5 skein of wool, on sale from Joann’s, made two dryer balls.
Although honestly, I found them to be a pain in the booty to make. If I need anymore, I’m gonna buy them from a WAHM*. I’ve seen them sold on Hyena Cart for $15 for three balls, and to me, that is worth the trouble.
*WAHM means “work-at-home-mom” to those of you who aren’t familiar with internet acronyms.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We’re Not Celebrating Christmas

Well, not yet anyway. ;-)
I keep seeing everyone post pictures of their Christmas trees, their decorations, their parties, and I’m so tempted to jump in! But this year we’re observing Advent during Advent and celebrating Christmas during Christmas. Which means that while everyone else is being all festive, we’re preparing in a more solemn and reflective way. And when everyone is burnt out on the holidays and putting away their decorations, we’ll be celebrating and saying “Merry Christmas!” I know our neighbors think we’re just lazy when our tree and lights are still up well into January…but no, we mean to do that.

We’ve been trying to make a move toward this more traditional celebration for the past few years now. We started small, with the advent wreath. Then we began celebrating Christmas up until the Feast of the Epiphany and adding the Epiphany traditions. Then we began celebrating the real St. Nicholas and traditions surrounding St. Nick on his feast day (December 6) and reserving Christmas day for Jesus’ Nativity. So this year, our Christmas celebrating will BEGIN on Christmas Eve.
One of the things we’ve picked up again this year, is the Jesse tree. In a nutshell, we start the first Sunday of Advent (this year, it was November 29), and each day we read a Scripture passage and hang an ornament with a symbol, which takes us through salvation history from the beginning up to Christ’s birth. There are many different ways you can do it, but we decided this year to put up our regular tree and hang our Jesse tree symbols there. We will continue to add our daily ornament until the Christmas Eve vigil, where we will decorate it in full and have our traditional blessing of the Christmas tree and lighting ceremony.
We got our symbols from the book Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in the Domestic Church, but they are available at different places on the web as well. We copied them, colored them, cut and pasted them on construction paper, laminated them, punched holes in them, and strung thread through them. A smarter person might buy them already made. ;-) But it was nice to have us all working together; the kids did a superb job coloring and cutting them out.
Aside from our Advent “non-celebrating” and Jesse tree, we’re doing the same traditions that we have in years past, which you can read about here.

Today, we celebrated St. Nicholas’ feast day with a special breakfast, stockings filled with gold-wrapped chocolate and warm fuzzy  socks for the kids, stories of St. Nicholas’ kindness, and special pages to color.
010 You know what’s so neat about it? When I first started to make a move toward a more traditional celebration of Christmas, I was afraid that my kids would feel like they were missing out on something, especially since “Santa” is such a big deal to most kids. That hasn’t been the case. My oldest daughter, who also converted when she was 8-years-old, has remarked to me before that the way we are celebrating now is more fun.

If you want more fun things to do with the kids this season, check out Domestic Church. I love this site!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (RSV)

It’s easy to be thankful when things are going our way and we’re comfortable. But what about when our circumstances are less than ideal? Sometimes it’s not so easy to be thankful when the situation we’re in doesn’t quite match the expectations we have.
Some of us have a lot of expectations this time of year about what the holidays should be like. Commercials show smiling families around beautifully set, food-laden tables, the warmth of a fireplace in the background. These images stir certain emotions within us, and we strive to create a reality to match the images placed in our minds. Some of us go to an awful lot of trouble and create a lot of stress for ourselves trying to attain these ideals.

For some of us--Ok, for a LOT of us--this ideal just isn’t our life. I know that I am one who has a life that’s decidedly un-idealistic a lot of the time. I can either stress myself out trying to force it into a certain mold, or I can simply embrace what I have and enjoy it for what it is.

This year, in particular, I caught myself whining about how rough I have it. Can you believe that? I was actually thinking that *I* have it rough. How ungrateful I can sometimes be! Today, instead of whining about the (trivial, insignificant) difficulties I faced, I decided to look for the blessings hidden in them.

Last night, I had to opportunity to go to a job I like and get paid a decent amount of money, which will help my family buy necessities and also comforts and entertainments. At this job, I cared for three adorable little babies. I gave them baths,  rubbed sweet-smelling lotion on them, dressed them in snuggly jammies, rocked them, and fed them. The unit was more quiet and peaceful than usual.
This morning at the end of my shift, my husband brought four healthy, beautiful children to me so that he could go to his job.  Thank you, God, that they can all use their voices to communicate! lol 
Thank you, God, that my husband has a stable job to go to that keeps us fed, warm, and clothed.
When Gem vomited on the way home, I was thankful that I had spare clothes in the back of the van, that I had baby wipes to wipe the seatbelt off, and that there was an open gas station with warm running water to clean my Gem up. I’m also thankful that it wasn’t a serious illness that caused her to vomit; apparently the junk food that her daddy fed her for breakfast didn’t sit well with her. No more signs of illness for the rest of the day.
I am thankful for a stepmom who is willing to babysit the children. For free! I was able to drop the boys off with her for the day so that I could take a nap. I decided to keep the girls with me; Mojo has been congested and has had a slight cough, and Bear told me that Gem was coughing a little this morning. I wanted to keep any germs they might have away from Grandma. But thankfully, the girls were just fine today. I heard hardly a cough or complaint.
I am thankful that the girls felt well enough to play and keep each other entertained while I rested. And in a warm, comfortable bed, no less. When I woke up, they were both in a good mood, and Mojo told me that they watched a movie, listened to music, and made crafts while I napped (pics to follow.) My kids are normal kids; they are not perfect kids. But they are good kids. I’m thankful that they are mostly happy kids. 
I am thankful that when I am super-tired, a big cup of coffee will kick-start me into the world of the living. I even had vanilla spiced rum creamer today! 
I am thankful that I didn’t get called in to work tonight. Because I got to stay home with my family, I needed to find us something to eat for supper (we have a big dinner with a turkey planned for tomorrow, when we will all be together.) I am thankful that we have a 24-hour Wal-Mart that was opened and selling food, and that I had the money to buy food. I am thankful that they had great sales on their pies and rolls. I am thankful that we had a good dinner tonight that I was able to pull together in about 30 minutes, that the kids were as just as excited about our “feast” as they are about any of our other special meals, and I am especially thankful that I didn’t have to cook most of it!
Most of all, I am thankful that my husband came home from work safely and that the day ended with us all together, loving each other, enjoying each other. All healthy. All fed and comfortable.
Seriously, if y’all ever hear me complaining about anything, please slap me. I’ve got it good here!

And now, here’s a picture of our Thanksgiving feast. I can’t help but get a kick out of it; in my redneck upbringing, this was considered “living high on the hog”. Tonight, I felt like I am living high on the hog! Paper plates, cans of soda, and all (and I’m thankful for paper plates making for a worry-free cleanup). I couldn’t help but think of those mama friends of mine (not naming names, you know who you are!) who were running around like crazy, stressing about minute details and getting everything just right. To me, it just don’t get no better than THIS!
I especially cherish the turkey decorations, made from tracings of the children’s hands. Good job, kids!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunshine’s Sweet 16

Sixteen years ago today, I was becoming a mother for the first time. When the nurses handed her to me, and she was crying her little head off, my first thought was “I don’t think she likes me very much.” To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to do with her! Sometimes, I still don’t. ;-)
I always thought we’d have a big blowout for her sweet sixteen party, but we have a tradition in our house that Birthday Person gets to choose how to celebrate her birthday, the dinner, and the birthday cake. Although in our house, Birthday Person often chooses a birthday non-cake, so we’re non-traditional traditionalists.
Sunshine preferred a quiet celebration this year; she wanted to watch a movie with Reesie and me and eat dinner at one of her favorite Mexican restaurants. It was the opening weekend for New Moon, so guess what we went to see? Anything but that. We decided to see Planet 51, and it was a cute movie. We all laughed.
And her birthday non-cake was a tub of cookie dough. Yes, you read right. Cookie dough. We all ate it uncooked (no, we didn’t get salmonella.)11-22-09 Sunshines sweet 16 2 11-22-09 Sunshines sweet 16 12
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Here she is goofing off with her crazy mama. Seriously, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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And her little sister’s not far behind. Reesie got some pics with her camera also, so I may upload some more later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Gem!

My little princess turned three years old today. We celebrated at home with a “My Little Pony” cake and barbeque meatballs, Gem’s favorite meal. We also had veggie and fruit trays and cheese dip and chips (Daddy’s request). As she was getting ready to go to sleep, she told me “Thank you for my birthday!”

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DSCF0020 Gem’s Favorite Things
Favorite color: purple
Favorite movies: Snow White, Wizard of Oz
Favorite food: birthday cake
Favorite toy: My Little Pony
Favorite Songs: Old MacDonald, Funkytown, Hot Chocolate

And of course, a trip down memory lane…

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11-26-06 003 First smiles.
Gemma in her baptism gown. 6-6-07 Gemma
10-31-07 Halloween9  11-19-07 010
4-29-08 08 5-6-08 Gemma 17 months
11-19-08 029 1-12-09 playgroup6
4-19-09 02 7-8-09 05

I love you so much, my princess!