Merry Christmas! And a happy feast of St. Stephen! (We’ll be singing Good King Wenceslaus all day in St. Stephen’s honor.) As I have a few moments before driving off to South Dakota, I thought I’d post a few photos from the last few days.
Now that we live in a forested area, naturally we drove to a Christmas tree farm to hunt down a tree for 2020. In order to do this, however, I broke one of my Advent Rules and blasted the Christmas music from the speakers of my Sweet Ride, for one cannot possibly buy a Christmas tree without listening to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “O Tannenbaum.”
But let me back up. In order to cut and buy a Christmas tree, one has three preparatory things to do first:
Prep the van. As our van does not have a rack on top, we had to remove a row of seats to make room for the biggest pine tree we could possibly find. (Kids will just have to double buckle. There’s no other way.)
Make coffee. Naturally one must prepare a thermos of hot coffee for such a stately endeavor involving hand saws and tree trimmers and loud, ecstatically excited children.
Get the Christmas music playlist ready to blast in the van, as I already mentioned.
After accomplishing the above, we were off, singing gleefully, for it was a joyous occasion. The children had great fun running around, sizing up all the pine trees and pointing them out to each other. I ambled behind and snapped a few photos for fun, which I’ll post below, but not before I mention something a friend had said to me a few days ago, as I was expressing my sadness in killing a live tree, which we do every year…and will continue to do…
She said, “Kim, Christmas trees are meant to be a living sacrifice to God. We give Him our best. We pick out the most beautiful offering, pay for it, and kill it. Christmas trees are sacrifices and gifts to God in thanksgiving for His Son. So quit feeling bad about it.”
Yes, you are right, dear friend.
As I likely won’t write anything for a week or so, Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!
Look, things got pretty desperate around here the other day. I was parking my Sweet Ride, picking some children up from school, when I noticed something. Something so repulsive and grotesque that even the most manly of men sometimes tremor in disgust: Mouse Droppings.
Yes, Mouse Turds. Right in my center console, where I keep my sunglasses and extra napkins.
I cannot even begin to describe my feelings and emotions when I first saw those two Offensive Poops. All I can say is, I got out of my van quickly.
But then, as I reached back into the van to grab my purse, I noticed something even more horrible. So horrible that I grabbed my phone and immediately called my sister in sheer revulsion and horror. There were numerous Mouse Craps on my chair!I SAT on mouse CRAPS*! Unbelievable!
I immediately hit Speed Dial to my sister, “Katie, you won’t believe it. I just SAT ON MOUSE TURDS IN MY VAN!”
Without pause, and as cool as a cucumber, she calmly responded with, “Burn it. Just burn it.”
I thought about her advice. It was good advice, for it would surely kill any infestation of rodents. But then, I hesitated. Buying a new van would be kind of pricey, and who has that kind of money? No, something else would have to be done and meantime, I had to get these kids home. So I grabbed a napkin and brushed The Offenders into the street, calling on my Guardian Angel to protect me, and formed a plan.
Plan to Get Rid of Mouse:
Bribe the boys to deep clean the van. Obviously with 7 mostly young children, we eat in the van, and clearly the thing is a mess and desperately needs attention. “Boys, $10 to each of you to clean this thing out! There will be Candy Bonuses if done to my satisfaction and you douse the thing with Holy Water.”
Relate my feelings and emotions to my husband immediately upon entering the house, where he is currently “working” from home.
And here’s how that conversation went:
Amidst slamming of van doors, banging of house doors, and children laughing and shouting, I desperately yelled up the stairs, “Dearest! We need to talk. Right now! I just sat on Mouse Turds, and this is unacceptable, and I have to go take a hot bath. I need a glass of wine. And you need to get that mouse out of the van immediately. I don’t care if you have to use Vacation Hours to go buy mouse traps. I’m not setting foot in the that thing again until there’s a dead mouse in a trap. Even then, I’m not so sure. What was that about wine? No, I don’t care if we gave up wine for Advent. This is an EMERGENCY. Now where’s my glass?”
Well, enough of this saga. Being the good husband that he is, though, he took an hour of Vacation, drove to the hardware store, and bought 8 mouse traps. (Which I thought was a bit stingy. I told him to buy fifty.) Then he dutifully set the traps, and the next morning, we had a very dead mouse.
Here are some photos to document the Tragedy and Triumph:
In the Name of all that is Holy and Clean and Rodent-Free, may this never happen again. Amen. Alleluia.
*I am sorry for the vulgar language, but truly, this is what I thought. A stronger foul word may have entered my head too, but good Catholic that I am, I quickly rejected that word.
Now most of you know that I am not a crafty person. Just the thought of beads and hot glue guns and decorative paper and stamps–and whatever else–gives me hives and my whole body revolts and my eyes bulge out and I can only think, “Where’s my coffee? Somebody, help.”
That said, there must be something out there that one can do that is not a craft, and I’ve discovered it: Dishtowel Embroidery.
Reasons Dishtowel Embroidery is a Not a Craft:
There are no hot glue guns involved. Or anything sticky, syrupy, or sparkly.
There are no beads. Or buttons or stickers or markers or crayons or paint.
Absolutely no neat and pretty handwriting is required at all.
In fact, no creativity is involved whatsoever. Just grab a flour-sack towel, a frame, a needle, and some thread. Then follow the pattern.
Some of you might point out that a little creativity is actually required, as one must chose one’s thread colors. Well, you’re wrong. Just follow the colored patterns on the covers of those embroidery books at Hobby Lobby, if need be.
Benefits of Dishtowel Embroidery, Especially in the Wintertime
Of course there are benefits to embroidering these flour-sack dishtowels, and I’ll obligingly list them below for you.
Embroidery provides a perfectly legitimate excuse to stay indoors on a freezing, cold day.
One can listen to excellent audio books while embroidering, like Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham. (Hilarious.)
One may still enjoy a large glass of wine while steadily stitching away in front of a roaring fire.
Dishtowels make wonderful Christmas gifts. My boys even stitched one for that very purpose. (I guess even boys need an occasional break from wrestling, playing football and ping pong, tearing around the yard, and tormenting their sisters.)
If one is feeling put out and incapable of producing productive work, one may simply hold the frame and stare at the unfinished pattern and appear to be in deep contemplation. This gives passersby the allusion that one is fearfully busy, which is sometimes necessary after a difficult day of yelling at redirecting the children.
And did you know, that one’s feet can be massaged at the same time as one embroiders? Heavenly. (I hope my husband reads this.)
If you’ve never embroidered before, look into it. It’s the perfect thing for these upcoming colder months, and Hobby Lobby has everything you need.
All right, enough of you are interested and apparently would like me to say a few words on Santa Claus.
Most of you know the difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, right? If not, there are plenty of other capable websites out there willing to chronicle the similarities and differences of these two men. (Well, one was a sainted bishop and the other a fictional, old man, likely based on the former…)
But today I’m not interested in detailing the particulars of St. Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6th and wherein many children (including ours) receive chocolate coins in their shoes to commemorate his generosity in helping out three destitute sisters long, long ago.
Rather, today I’m only interested in our modern culture’s Santa Claus–you know, the fat, jolly, old man from the North Pole with a bunch of magical, flying reindeer at his service.
As I was saying, we’re not haters around here. In fact, I like Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and Rudolf and all those hard-working elves. You may remember the charming poem, A Visit from St. Nicholasby Clement Clarke Moore? This poem is all about Santa Claus and my children recite it every December. Why? Because it’s beautifully and imaginatively written; it’s a lovely story with a happy ending for all the good boys and girls in the world.
But it’s just that–a fictional tale that’s fun to read and dramatize in costume and song and generally just enjoy.
And like all other fairy tales, we cannot tell our children that they’re true because they aren’t, and they know it anyway.
So, for our family, we enjoy the tale of Santa Claus, while avoiding lying about his eternal, omnipresence–for he isn’t eternal or omnipresent. There is only One who is, and He was born on Christmas day, and His story is tremendously important and magical and beautiful. Happy Birthday, Jesus, on December 25th!
Now that’s a story, and a true one at that. And on Christmas morning, we don’t care to have any competition with it. So, no gifts from Santa, but…
Yes, we’re talking Christmas here, and it’s about the material side of things, too. Yikes! I intend to dedicate this post to Christmas shopping and Christmas gifts intentionally for two reasons:
It is always a good idea to look closely at one’s finances well ahead of any purchases, especially in a season oftentimes fraught with expense. So for prudential budgeting purposes, our family actually does the bulk of our Christmas shopping in October.
We also like to have our Christmas shopping done well in advance of Advent so that we can do precisely that: Advent. Who likes to rush around frantically shopping at the last minute? Not me, anyway. We prefer to attempt a slower, more prayerful awareness of the liturgical season.
That said, let’s look at a few things our family does for gifts.
Ah, but perhaps I should mention that we don’t do Santa Claus? On second thought, let’s not mention it and move on. Feel free to ask me to explain later, if you’re curious, and I will.
So on Christmas morning, after praying Lauds and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, our children open a few gifts from us. Our goal is to keep it simple, and so here’s what we typically give:
An article of clothing
And something else fun or useful
Now we have 7 children, and those three items add up and can be expensive, so we buy used things, if possible. For example, almost all the books are used, or I will purchase them months in advance from, say, Bethlehem Books when they have their half-off sales. Most of the clothing I purchase used too, at second-hand stores. The last “fun” gift, however, does get to be tricky and most often is not used.
Let me give you some examples of what our children will actually receive thisvery Christmas. (Should you happen to see the children, don’t tell them!)
Next Girl Up:
The Third Youngest Girl will also receive much the same, except that instead of a play skirt, she will be getting some colorful notecards that I found on sale at Hobby Lobby. (She likes to do crafty things.)
The boys will also be receiving second-hand clothing from my cousin, the following books, which I purchased earlier this year at a Bethlehem Book sale, and one pellet gun, which they will all share.
The Eldest is getting a new dress–not used–and this book:
Christmas Stockings and a Family Gift
Yes, we do Christmas stockings. Typically we put Christmas candy in the children’s Christmas stocking. This year I also purchased some Christmas-themed socks to stick in too.
And lastly, I purchased a Christmas puzzle as a family gift.
And what about me and my husband? Do we exchange gifts? Yes, and while I do have his gift purchased already, I cannot tell you what it is, for fear that he might actually look at this blog post.
Do You Have Any Christmas Gift Ideas?
Do any of you have any Christmas Gift ideas? If so, I’d love to hear about them. I suspect that some of you are very crafty and handy and might even be able to make Christmas gifts.
This morning, at 7am, I drove to our local voting precinct only to discover a line trailing out the door and wrapping around the building. So, I drove right on by, came home, fed the children breakfast, and tried again at about 8:45am.
Thankfully there was no line the second time, and I walked right in without a mask. I was greeted by a kind, elderly lady who in a muffled, mask-voice asked, “Would you like a mask?”
I smiled and declined, “No, thank you.”
Muffled Mask Lady then pointed to the Huge-Mondo Hand Sanitizer Pump and enquired hesitatingly, “Would you like to sanitize your hands?”
I again smiled sweetly and said, “No, thank you.”
After I checked in and signed for my name and address, I received my ballot in a manilla envelope and a pen. I was told to keep the pen. I guess in Minnesota our taxes are so high that we earn Voting Pens.
I then walked to a table, sat down, and voted as conservatively as possible. The only distraction to my voting was the incredible reek of cleaning materials. The room was in a haze. I hope I didn’t contract cancer from all that hazardous chemical being sprayed and wiped all over the place.
In any case, I submitted my ballot to a machine and was told to add my manilla envelope to the pile on a chair. I wonder if they will dare reuse those manilla envelopes? My germs are on it.
How was your voting experience? Did you get a sticker?
I want to sincerely thank everyone for their prayers and kind words, as we continue to struggle with the loss of our baby. It is truly agonizing to wait for this miscarriage to happen. As it is right now, I’m still waiting and going on ten weeks “pregnant.”
I worry about rescuing the baby’s tiny body. Will I be able to identify anything? I’ve heard that as time slips by, one’s body can sometimes slowly absorb the baby.
I worry about something else going wrong. There’s the risk of hemorrhaging. There’s the risk that the little baby will become toxic to my body, and I dread a D&C.
I battle with thoughts of guilt. Perhaps I ought to have been more vigilant with taking progesterone?
Then there’s the heartbreaking questions from my four-year-old, “Mommy, why did the baby have to die?”
“Jesus must have wanted him in Heaven, Honey.”
“But, why did the baby have to die, Mommy?”
I looked down at her innocent eyes, held her hand, and said, “I don’t know.”
I suppose in the end–the only thing one can do–is place little Raphael Marie in God’s hands. He’s a good Father, after all, and knows best.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Rosary
On a lighter note…Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary. This feast has a rich history. (Click HERE for it at New Advent.)
Many of you may know that this day was originally named Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the naval victory of the Christian fleet over the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto in the Adriatic Sea in 1571.
Every October 7th our family reads G. K. Chesterton’s famous poem, Lepanto. If you’ve never read it before, give it shot. Chesterton covers this historic battle very well, and it reads like a marching army. We love it.
And which publication of Chesterton’s Lepanto to we prefer?
Dale Ahlquist’s book appropriately titled Lepanto, consists of Chesterton’s poem along with a few essays detailing the historical background for October 7th, 1571. It’s excellent.
It has been raining here for the last 3 days. This gets to be a bit much for someone unfortunately affected by coldness and wetness and cloudiness. Blech.
Then add to the perpetual dreariness of the weather the state of our culture…ah, not an uplifting combination, especially for those of us following the plight of Fr. James Altman.
Many of you know that he’s our pastor here in Wisconsin. If you think of it, remember him in your prayers, as he’s being harassed with truly vile and despicable emails and phone calls, as he becomes internationally known for his courageous stand against Democrats. (See HERE for his inspiring video.)
Thankfully, not all the publicity is negative, however. Bishop Stickland of Tyler, Texas, has publicly supported him. Praise God. I understand there’s to be a Rosary Rally at the Cathedral in La Crosse this Sunday at 2pm to show support for Father, too. We’ll be there.
Again, may God and His Holy Angels protect St. James the Less Parish, Fr. Altman, and the surrounding area.
So, what am I doing today, in these Dark Times?
Naturally, we’re doing our normal prayers and school work for the day, but then, we just had to take an hour off this morning. We drove in the rain to a local coffee shop and bought cappuccinos, for who doesn’t like something hot on a cold, dreary day? We delivered one to my husband, who greeted us with a big smile. Then, we drove home and blasted Maria Van Trapp (Julie Andrews) singing I Have Confidence. It was an uplifting drive.
Prior to all the rain, we spent a few hours at one of our local apple orchards picking apples, eating apples, and running through the corn maze. Perhaps if the rain clears, we’ll go again this weekend.
I learned how to can tomatoes a few days ago. It was a messy, but fun ordeal. My mom instructed me and my sister-in-law on how to make pasta sauce, salsa, and stewed tomatoes. Thank you, Mom!
Anyone else have any ideas for pleasant outings or doings?
P.S. WordPress changed many settings on me the other day. Please excuse any editing issues, as I work my way through a new system. Ugh! Technology.
As I stand in my yard and look around at the deeply wooded ridges and valleys, I think, Humph, I’m not in Kansas anymore.
Actually, I never was in Kansas, but I was living on those same Great Plains for nearly four decades, and now I’m not. This is my first year gardening in the “Driftless Area” near the Mississippi River. Driftless Area is a technical term referring to 24,000 square miles of steep, forested ridges that the last Glacier Period neglected to iron out.
In other words, we have zero flat spots in our yard in which to place a neat and orderly garden.
No matter, though! We’re figuring it out. Gardening is worth it after all, even if one doesn’t have a green thumb. Today I’ll show you what our family has done this year, and by doing so, I hope to accomplish one thing:
To give hope and inspiration to those of you who find gardening horribly tedious or overwhelming, like me.
Now, if you’ve got a beautifully well-managed garden, this post will still be for you too, because perhaps, by reading about those of us struggling to keep our thumbs green, you may be inspired to give us your extra lettuce and rhubarb. For heaven knows ours didn’t grow.
Gardening Tip #1: Get Somebody to Help
Now I’m the mother of 7 little children. I need help. Thankfully my husband is more than willing to bust out the power tools and build something. Earlier this spring he built a little garden box into the hillside because as I said before, we have zero flat spots in our yard for a traditional garden.
And here it is today:
This box features one tomato plant, two pepper plants, two broccoli plants, and some basil. Originally I had planted mint, but it didn’t come up. I have no idea why. So after about a month, I drove over to the local nursery to see if they had any vegetables left to buy. This was really smart on my part because they were practically giving away the remainder of their broccoli plants and jalapeños for free.
I’ve never planted broccoli, but I thought, why not? And my husband loves jalapeños. So we’re giving it a shot.
But that little box is hardly big enough for everything I wanted to plant. And so, that leads me to my next Gardening Tip:
Gardening Tip #2: Get More Help: Enlist the Children
Last year we tried something new. We told our children that if they wanted to earn some money, they could plant a garden, and I’d buy all the produce. And they actually did it. They bought seed with their own money, planted some potatoes, onions, and pumpkins, and took care of it, and I bought it all. It wasn’t a lot, mind you, but it was worth it.
This year, we knew we’d have to get more creative. Just where were we going to dig up some earth for the Children’s Garden? Well, why not try on the hillside?
So, the boys carried up their folding saws and bow saws and hacked away at the sumac in order to clear a patch of earth. Then my husband hauled up the tiller and did his best to rip up the ground. Naturally the soil wasn’t fertile, so we added some peat moss and Holy Water. Lastly, the whole thing had to be surrounded by a deer fence, if we hoped to enjoy any of the produce ourselves.
And this is what we ended up with:
Admittedly, it’s rather small, but I guess something is better than nothing. This little garden boasts of a pumpkin plant, a few onions, some green beans, a pepper plant, and two tomato plants.
Here is a close up of the pumpkin and pepper:
And here’s the tomato plants:
They had planted cucumbers in there too, but they chose not to grow, which is just as well as they’d likely have vined all over the place.
I tried to get the children to plant beets, as they’re one of my favorite vegetables to roast and eat, but alas, the children positively refused. They insisted that there was no room for such nasty-tasting roots, which leads me to my third Gardening Tip:
Gardening Tip #3: Plant Vegetables Instead of Marigolds
Now this hurts me a little, as I love flowers, but if those rebellious children won’t plant beets, somebody’s got to! So, instead of a row of marigolds, I planted a row of beets (and some onions) right by our front door.
Anyone can see that neither vegetable is truly thriving. I’d like to blame this on the hail that went through a month ago, but really it’s because I’ve got a two-year-old who walks all over it too.
In the end, I hope this little garden tour inspired you to keep at it, especially if gardening overwhelms you. It’s always worth it!
Just the other night the children sold me a handful of their green beans. We haggled over the price. I told them that the average market price was a $1.68 per pound. They responded promptly by reminding me that their green beans were organic and likely worth triple that amount. How outrageous!
I’ve had an interesting week. My 4-year-old daughter was holding a folding chair by its hinges and running. She tripped and fell on top of the chair, which immediately sliced her two fingers–one on each hand. The lefthand fingertip was dangling; the right was only cut through the bone.
Yuck. It gives me the willies just thinking about it, for I had to put the one fingertip back in place. Ew.
I debated on whether or not I should post a few pictures of her cut-up fingers. I decided to go for it, but with a warning that the following pictures are just plain gross. If you’re queasy about such things, you had better skim past ’em! For the rest of you curious folk…
After my last post on Summer School, I had a few of you ask some great questions:
How does your “Art & Tea Time” work exactly?
Around 3pm, I yell, “Art & Tea Time!” Everyone makes a mad dash for their cursive books, extra paper, drawing books, and colored pencils. The Eldest puts on the audio book, and I either fold laundry or do some dinner prep. During this hour, 4 of the children are required to do 2 pages of cursive, which I never check. I also give them a snack. In the colder months, we had tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Now I tend to give them anything that will keep the 2-year-old and the 4-year-old quiet–so, like animal crackers or gold fish. When Art & Tea Time is finished, the children put everything away and also set the table for supper. Then they quickly disappear, usually outside, so that they can’t receive any more chores from Mom.
What audio books are good for a variety of ages?
My age range is 2-13. Generally the youngest two never listen, but just eat a snack and roam around a bit. I’ve found that if the volume is loud enough, they won’t cause any problems. In any case, our favorite books that have satisfied everyone are the following:
a.) The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
b.) The Little Britches series–books 1-4–by Ralph Moody
c.) The Mitchells series by Hilda van Stockum
d.) The Cottage at Bantry series by Hilda van Stockum
There are others, but that should get you started. If you have any questions about these books or need more recommendations, drop me a line!
What if your children complain about the audio selection?
Then they can go sit on their bed in Black Out until Art & Tea Time is over.
It’s no secret that I love wearing skirts. (There’s a whole post on it HERE.) This summer I added two more. And yes, that means I got rid of two. You do remember The Rule, right? One in, one out.
So anyway, I was in dire need of two new skirts. Where to find them? I checked out a few secondhand stores, and while I did find something for my daughter, alas, there was nothing for me.
And oh! What to do on a budget?
I had to shop online at the Power-Hungry-Giant, otherwise known as Amazon. Sigh. But truly, these were about the cheapest skirts I could find that met my length requirement. (I prefer to cover my knees.)
And so, if you’re curious, I’ll link below the two I bought. They’re great, if you don’t mind a skirt sitting at your natural waistline.