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9 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

In the last post, I wrote about a few things our family will be focusing on this Advent.  In this post, I want to highlight I few things I WON’T be doing.

Now before you read this list, please know that I’m tired.  Really exhausted.  I could give you many reasons why this is so, but I’m too tired do it.  My only intent is to show you that not all families are alike, and that sometimes, one needs to cut back.

Everything you’re about to read on this list is, in fact, a good thing.  If your family is able to do them all, I’m glad!  It’s just that I can’t right now, and I suspect I’m not the only one who is a little overwhelmed.

Without any further ado, here we go.

9 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

  1. I don’t have a Jesse Tree.  One year I did, but not this year.  And I know that Jesse Trees don’t even have to be a difficult thing to do.  One can simply print off a bunch of paper ornaments, have the children color them, and then cut them out.  But not me.  Nope.  I can’t.
  2. I don’t even have an Advent Calendar.  Our 2018 wall calendar will have to do.  The thought of another trip into Target, or even clicking around on Amazon to find one, is just too much.
  3. There is no Elf on my shelf.  Nor has there ever been.  I understand this is a fun thing for children, but mine will have to be satisfied with Mary and Joseph traveling around the house.

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    There is no Elf on these shelves.  But there are books all over the floor of this room.
  4. I’m not going to make a single cookie.  Heck, I might not even make a single cookie during Christmas.  My cookie press from Pampered Chef broke, and so I can’t make my all-time favorite Spritz Cookies using Grandma Hahn’s recipe.  This does actually make me a little sad, but really, it’s freeing too.  I know there won’t be any lack of cookies coming into the house anyway.  In fact some have already found their way into my freezer, as my mother is such a go-getter that she and my aunt already supplied me with two huge containers full.  So nope.  I’m not making any cookies.

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    But hey look!  I do have some cooking supplies.  Maybe I’ll just lock myself in the pantry and eat those M&Ms and pretzels.
  5. My box of Advent and Christmas books for the children to read is not out yet.  I’ve just been too tired to actually walk down the stairs, turn a corner, open a door, and get it.  I’m really hoping that I’ll find the motivation to do so, at least by December 24th.  We do have some good ones.  In the meantime, if I can’t, one year without them will be fine.
  6. I’m not going to listen to Christmas music this Advent.  Maybe.  Goodness, this is such a hard one for me.  I love Christmas music so much, that it isn’t uncommon for me to blast it any time of the year.  Just ask my children.  Who doesn’t love a little Sleigh Ride in July?
  7. I’m not decorating for Christmas during Advent.  This one is easy to not do for the obvious reason that I don’t have to do anything!  We stopped decorating for Christmas during Advent a long time ago.  Instead it’s become a family tradition to decorate on Christmas Eve, and I can’t tell you how much fun we have!  And I also have the added bonus of my husband being home to carry the heavy boxes up from the basement for me.  So I’m not really worried about this one.
  8. I’m not going to buy a ton of Christmas gifts.  We’ve been scaling back over the years, which has been difficult because our extended families are so generous!  But now the grandparents are down to just one gift per child, and we’re doing the same.  Well, not really, I guess.  Each child gets one book, one practical item, and a little candy.  (Candy because we abstain from sweets during Advent.)  For example, my eldest son loves the Redwall series, so he’s getting book #8 along with a new watchband and a candy cane.  We’ve found that less is more.  It teaches the children gratitude.
  9. And finally, I’m not going to write any more blog posts until Christmas.  I need a little break, especially with my son’s medical issues.  But don’t worry, I’ll be back!  (I can’t seem to help myself, when it comes to writing, for better or for worse.)

May God bless you this Advent!

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Advent is Here!

Last Sunday we began the holy season of Advent.  So I’ll offer a few thoughts and ideas on what works for our family to keep this season holy and prayerful.  If you have any great traditions or ideas, I’d love to hear about them too.

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My Drummer Boy is ready to start the season off with a bang.  But with only one drum stick.  The other one is lost.

Where to we start?

Lately I’ve mentioned the importance of Confession and Adoration.  While we never quit going to Confession throughout the year, our family has taken a three-month hiatus from Adoration, as we were into the chaotic business of packing and moving and switching parishes.  Now that that’s over, it is our top priority to get back to a weekly holy hour, beginning this week.

This is a difficult thing, however, as we feel strongly that not only my husband and I ought to have an hour, but that all those children who have received First Holy Communion should too.  So, we just have to make it a priority, which sometimes means saying no to other things, while also getting creative.

My hour will be during the evening and by myself, as I’m home all day and need a break.   My husband’s hour, however, will be in the morning before work, and he’ll take the four older children with him.  This is doable because after the holy hour, two of the children will walk over to their school, one will join her homeschool coop, which happens to be at our parish, and the last remaining child will get picked up by me.

Complicated?  Yes.  Worth it.  Double Yes Yes.  Prayer is the most important thing we can make time for.  It is our top priority.

Advent Prayer Intentions

This Advent we will be of course offering prayers for our Church, but also specifically for our son who suffers from migraines.  Lately they’ve become more intense and debilitating, which landed us back at his neurologist’s office.  After an MRI, we discovered that he has a Chiari I Malformation, which is fancy talk for the lower brain extending too far into the spinal cord.

We don’t know if this is causing his migraines, so we’ll be traveling to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to have a specialized, pediatric neurologist examine him.  We hope to find some answers.  And if you think of it, please pray for him.

And now the Fun Stuff

Of course we’ll be lighting our Advent wreath every evening at dinner.  The children love this because we shut all the lights off, light the candle, and sing two verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  Then my husband prays the Vespers Responsory and the Magnificat Antiphons, with the O Antiphons being the last seven days of Advent.  It’s beautiful.

As many of you also do, we have our nativity set out too.  Well, just the stable, shepherds, Drummer Boy, and the animals, as Mary and Joseph are traveling.  We start them off somewhere else in the house and move them closer every few days or so.

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We put our Nativity Set on the lower ledge of the fireplace, so that all the children can easily play with it.

And for school?  During Midmorning Prayer Time, our hymns will reflect the season.  Our favorite is On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry.  And we’ll be listening the Benedictines of Mary Advent at Ephesus during all hours of the day!

And for poetry?  I’m still looking for a good piece.  Anyone have any ideas?  Drop me a line.

I pray your season of Advent may be prayerful and fruitful!

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Even the baby gets to play with the Nativity Set.  Those plastic pieces must taste good!  She tried them all.
Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Advent and Nativity Sets

It’s cold outside, and it’s Friday.

So, it’s time to think about Nativity Sets.  Yes, I know Advent isn’t here yet, but some of us prefer to plan ahead for such things, so as to avoid stress and anxiety later.  Plus, I like to scatter the cost of Advent and Christmas over a couple of months, so December’s budget isn’t sky-high.

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And here’s my Nativity Set.  I know the quality of the photo is poor, but I took this a year ago with an old-fashioned camera.  You know, those digital ones that nobody has anymore.

Since most of us are home all day long, this matter of Nativity Sets is important for a couple of reasons.

  1. We are Catholics, and as such, have some sweet liturgical seasons, which ought to be celebrated in style.
  2. This is about our children after all.  What kid doesn’t like to mess around with nativity sets?  Think of it as a hands-on, Montessori-style education.
  3. Lastly, in as much as we can, we ought to make the space around us beautiful.  Hence, if you don’t already have one, buy a good, indestructible Nativity Set.

Now I am biased about nativity sets and strongly prefer Fontanini Nativity Sets mostly because I inherited a beautiful one, complete with a little stable, featuring an electric fire, along with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  But here is why Fontanini really is the best:

  1. It’s indestructible.
  2. Your children can chuck these beautifully painted pieces across the room.  Not that my children would do such a thing…
  3. There are myriads upon myriads of sheep, cows, shepherds, angels, and villagers available to play with–er–for purchase.
  4. Did I mention that these pieces don’t break?  (If you have boys, you will automatically know the importance of imperishable and everlasting nativity figures, or anything else for that matter.)

And so naturally one more question arises.  1.)  Which is my favorite nativity figure?

The Drummer Boy of course is my favorite accessory piece.  Everyone knows that a poor little drummer boy drummed on his drum for Jesus and Mary Christmas morning.  Jesus even smiled at him.  I’m pretty sure the drummer boy is in the Bible; in fact there’s a most beautiful song about it.*

Our family purchases a new figure every year, and this year we bought two camels.  I would have bought three camels, because that makes the most sense, but our budget only allows for only two.  We had to order them, however, so there not here yet.

Later next week I hope to have a post on a few more Advent things we do as a family.

 

 

*For your listening pleasure, HERE is one of the best Christmas songs ever.  I think this song is also in the Bible.**  (To those of you who prefer not to listen to music outside of its proper liturgical season, don’t listen to it!)
**Just kidding about the Drummer Boy being in the Bible.  Although if I were some kind of reforming heretic and enjoyed messing with the Bible – you know taking books out that I didn’t like and adding others – I’d for sure insert the Drummer Boy in the Christmas story.  You’d find it in the Gospel according to Kim.
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Christmas Trees

Well, this year we decided to do something we’ve never, ever done before – wait until the last possible minute to buy and put up a Christmas tree, which was Saturday, December 23rd, as we didn’t want to shop on Sunday, Christmas Eve.

Now normally we drive to the local tree nursery and pick out a big, beautiful 7-8 foot Frasier Fir the first or second weekend of Advent.  Twice we even bought a potted tree, which we planted in our yard in the Spring.  Of course potted trees are a bit more expensive, like $200 compared to the $100 for a cut tree, but then you have the benefit of a lifelong tree in the yard.

Anyway, it is then our tradition to let the tree sit until Christmas Eve, when we all decorate it together before Midnight Mass.  This year, however, we wanted to enter more fully into the season of Advent and not be bothered with a tree, until necessary.  The result?

I have never been so excited to get a Christmas tree!  It was so hard to see all those beautifully decorated trees in the windows of everyone’s houses!  Let’s face it – Christmas trees are so festive and cheering.  Who wouldn’t want one up all year round?  (Well, maybe the dead pine needles would deter some…)  And the children were positively giddy when we drove to Menards to buy one.  (The local nursery was not open.)

The selection, however, was as one might expect.  There were about 15 absolutely dead trees.  So, we picked out the least looking dead one and drove home, still very happy with our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  After all, this tree just needed a little love – like Linus’s blanket wrapped around its base or some sparkling lights and shiny ornaments.  And it turned out all right, as you can see by the picture.

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Our $2.13 Christmas Tree

But there was another reward for waiting.  We only spent $2.13!  Unbelievable.

And there is even one more, unlooked for advantage to purchasing a really dead tree.  You see, we need not concern ourselves with watering it.  I mean, we do have it sitting in water, but it hasn’t soaked up any yet.

Now, let’s just hope this tree makes it until Epiphany without completely falling apart.  (Oh that we lived near a Christmas Tree Farm, so that we could get a fresh one, which might last until the Feast of the Presentation on February 2.)

But will we do this again next year?  Yes.  The wait was worth it, even if only for the sheer excitement of the thing.

And while we’re talking about Christmas trees, everyone knows that the best song to listen to while decorating your tree is Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.  Well, unless you’re German, then maybe you’d prefer Nat King Cole’s O Tannenbaum?

Merry Christmas!