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8 Things I AM Doing This Advent

Today I hope to detail a few things that our family will be doing this Advent, which officially begins this afternoon after the praying of Nones, which precedes Vespers.

I want you to remember, however, when reading this list, that this is just what works for our family. Your Advent may look a bit differently, and that’s ok!

8 Things I AM Doing This Advent

  1. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This one should be obvious, except that it isn’t in our current deplorable state of affairs… Of course we’ll be attending Mass on all Sundays and Our Lady’s feast day December 8th, but we’ll also be attending Mass on December 12th, which is Our Lady of Guadalupe. There may be other days too, but these are the For Sures.

2. Confession. Again, I shouldn’t have to mention confession, except that I do because I think people aren’t going. Look, if you’re not going to confession at least every month, you’re risking your soul. We’re talking about eternal life here. I don’t care about any potential health concerns. Go to confession!

This stuff is important. It’s basic catechism. Most of you know that if you should happen to die in Mortal Sin, you’re going to Hell. But venial sins and imperfections need to be confessed regularly too, as there’s a tremendous of amount of grace given in this Sacrament. So, go to confession!

Really, there’s no excuse, unless you can’t find a priest willing to do his God-Given Duty. In that case, say an Act of Contrition, make reparation for your sins, and keep looking for a priest. There are good priests out there.

3. Fasting. While Advent isn’t as penitential as Lent, it is still meant to be a time of fasting. In our household, everyone old enough to receive Holy Communion eats plain bread for breakfast every Friday throughout the year, including Advent. During Advent we step it up a bit–no candy, sweets, or desserts. My husband–no stranger to year ’round fasting–adds an additional day of fasting from food. He normally fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, and this year for Advent, he’s adding Mondays. I only mention this to inspire you. If you want more, watch Dr. Marshall’s short, 15-minute video on fasting and Advent.*

Me? If I’m pregnant or nursing, fasting is out. As it is, I’m not pregnant or nursing, so I’ll be fasting, but only on Fridays, which I find incredibly difficult, probably because I need more practice.

Lastly, my husband and I are accustomed to drinking a glass of wine maybe three nights a week with dinner. During Advent? We’re cutting it back to only one night.

4. I am doing additional penance. Look, I need to. Not just for my sins, but look around. The world needs Christians willing to do penance. I wasn’t going to mention it, but then I thought, hey? Sometimes it’s encouraging to hear that others are doing extra penance. So, I’m taking cold showers every Friday, which I will continue even when Advent ends. (Again, I wouldn’t do this if I was pregnant or nursing, but I’m not.)

5. Our family will be observing a traditional meatless Christmas Eve. When I was a little girl, I thought it funny that my dad’s family always ate Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve. Now I wonder, was it intentional? I don’t know, and I can’t ask my grandma because she died years ago. In any case, we’re bringing it back.

6. Advent Wreath. Who doesn’t love lighting candles in the dark? Every evening, as we gather at the dinner table to pray before eating, the children run around and shut off every light in the house. Then, they light the candles according the week.

7. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. After lighting the Advent Wreath, we all sing at least two verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in the dark. Maybe this year in Latin? We’ll see tonight.

8. Setting up the Nativity Set. Naturally we’ll be setting up the Nativity Set today. In fact, I’m going to cut this post short–to do just that. Maybe I’ll post a few shots of it later on. The children do so enjoy playing with all the animals and the stable. They usually can’t reach Mary and Joseph, however, as I place them high up on shelves to travel around the house.

Lastly, if you have any questions, be sure to ask. Sometimes I assume something is clear, when it isn’t…

I hope you all have a blessed Advent!

*Want another family’s take on Advent? Dr. Marshall and his wife, Joy, discuss what they do HERE.

UPDATE: A few hours later…the nativity set is out!

And where are Mary and Joseph?

In a different room, making their way to Bethlehem…

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8 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

Advent begins this Sunday. Have you thought about it yet? I have, and I’ve come up with a few things I won’t be doing. Next week, I hope to put together a list of things I will be doing for those of you who might be curious.

But for today…

8 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

  1. I’m not doing a Jesse Tree.  Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I had a Jesse Tree, and the children colored paper ornaments and cut them out and decorated a dead tree branch. They had a lot of fun. This year? Nope. The Bible will have to do for making those lovely Old Testament stories come alive.
  2. I also will not have an Advent Calendar filled with chocolates marking out the liturgical season.  This is because I’d rather spend that $3.99 on a cappuccino. I guess, our 2020 “Drinking With the Monks” wall calendar from Tan Publishing will have to do.
Here is November’s picture. See the quotation in the corner? It says, “Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.” Cheeky!

3. I’m not going to make a single cookie during Advent.  I restrained myself last year, too, and it was freeing. We will, however, make cookies during the Christmas octave and eat as many as we choose, while we lick the bowl and fight for the spatula. I do sympathize with those individuals, however, who make their cookies during Advent and freeze them for Christmas. This is laudable–and penitential too, if one doesn’t eat the cookie dough or the cookies until December 25. Oy.

4. I don’t have my box of Advent books out yet; it’s still tucked away in the storage room.  I’ve just been too lazy 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. So this one probably shouldn’t be on my list of “Things I’m Not Doing This Advent.” Rather this one should be on my list of “Things I Should Get Going On By Sunday.”

5. There is no Elf on my shelf.  Nor has there ever been.  I understand this is a fun thing for some children, but mine will have to be satisfied with Mary and Joseph traveling around the house, making their way to our nativity set, which I hope to get out soon with that box of Advent books…

Kids’ bookshelf. No elf here. But there are books all over the floor…

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? This year, however, it’ll be “Advent at Ephesus” with the Benedictines of Mary.

7. I’m not going to buy a ton of Christmas gifts, which you already know about. (See HERE for my Christmas Shopping post.)  We’ve been scaling back over the years, as we’ve found that less is more, and it teaches the children gratitude.

8. 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 buy our Christmas tree the last possible minute and decorate it and the rest of our house on Christmas Eve, and I can’t tell you how much fun we have!  So I’m not really worried about this one.

May God bless you this Advent!

Life is Worth Living

Christmas Shopping!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Here are a couple of the little girls in their new dresses we gave them last year for Christmas.

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:

  1. A book
  2. An article of clothing
  3. 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 this very Christmas. (Should you happen to see the children, don’t tell them!)

The Youngest:

Second-hand dress from Once Upon a Child, used Jan Brett book purchased online, and a play skirt from Hobby Lobby

Next Girl Up:

Same as above.

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:

The Eldest loves everything Jane Austen.

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.

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Go To Confession! And the O Antiphons

Today, December 17th, begins the greater days of Advent, as we solemnly walk towards Christmas Day.  In the Divine Office one can find and pray the beautiful “O Antiphons.” Most of us are familiar with these verses, as they make up the lyrics for the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

December 17th is:

O Wisdom, Which camest out of the mouth of the Most High reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.

And lastly, I want to encourage you to go to Confession.  Below you’ll find an old post of mine from a year and a half ago.  It still tears at my heart when I read it.

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We All Need Confession

I had one of those terrible moments the other night.  You know, the ones where you crush the spirit of your child and know it.  It’s awful.

I had just sat down with my husband to pray Night Prayer after a long, harrowing day.  I was exhausted from the previous night’s insomnia, stressed about our house not selling, and anxious about the up-coming school year.  All I wanted to do was pray (i.e. whine about my problems to Jesus) without interruptions from my children.

Alas, this was not meant to be.  We hadn’t even made it through the opening prayer and up bounces one boy yelling, “Mom, he wrecked my lego set!”  And then 30 seconds later, the 5-year-old runs up crying, “Mom, she pushed me right here.  It really hurts.  I don’t understand why she has to do that.  I was just trying to brush her hair…”

Now, I made it through these interruptions without losing it, but barely.  Then up walks my eldest and asks with a merry twinkle in her eye, “Mom and Dad?  Will you come downstairs?  We have a surprise for you!”  I turned toward her, looked her straight in the eye, and firmly said, “No.”  She was immediately taken aback.  She slowly turned around, her shoulders slumped, and I could hear a sigh of true disappointment.  I had really hurt her.  She was so excited to show us something, and I had resolutely pushed her aside.

I had a choice in that moment.  I could persevere in my obstinate insistence on my will to avoid the children, or I could humble myself before Jesus, admit my wrong behavior, and agree to go see the “surprise.”  I could feel my husband silently pleading with me with his eyes, and so I called after her, “Wait!  We’ll come down after prayer to see your surprise.”

It was the right choice, even though I had to sacrifice my ideal of a quiet night.  The children had made up a little play for us, and it was beautiful.  They had made a special spot for us to sit and commenced singing and dancing in costume.  And I could have missed it all!  I wouldn’t trade those fifteen minutes for anything.

And now, there’s one thing left for me to do.  Go to Confession.  We all need to go regularly, and so this is my friendly reminder to all of you too:

Go to Confession!

Life is Worth Living

Moving, again?!?

Yes, it’s true.  We’re moving again.

This time, however, we’re not just hopping across a river and strolling down the road a few miles.  Nope, we’re trekking across the state, skipping over Minnesota, and landing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my husband will begin a new job at the end of January.

We’re very excited about this move for a few reasons:

  1. La Crosse puts us within about 70 miles of Rochester, MN, where our son doctors.  This will be a tremendous relief for us, should we need to race to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night again.  (God forbid.)
  2. La Crosse, as you perceptive readers may have noticed, has gorgeous churches, complete with Traditional Latin Masses every single Sunday.  As this is what our hearts long for, we are truly delighted and grateful for this opportunity.
  3. My husband is very pleased too with his new job.  It looks to be just what we need.
  4. And…it’s warmer in Wisconsin!  And the sun shines more.  Not kidding.  My husband looked it up.  Any move closer to the equator is a Serious Plus.

There are a few downsides to moving south (and east), however.

  1. We will be leaving behind family and friends.  This will not be easy, and it does tear our hearts.  We have been so blessed over the years with devoted grandparents and caring friends.  We thank God for them every day.
  2. It will also be terrible to leave the prairie for a forest.  How does one see the weather coming in Wisconsin?  My goodness, I’ll have to actually look at a Weather App.
  3. My husband has frequently commented that he’ll miss his boss and coworkers.  His boss in particular is a good man–a man he looks up to.  He will be awfully hard to replace.

In any case, though, God has clearly made His will known to us, and we are happy to move.  Wisconsin, here we come!

And we did the unthinkable…

Due to the impending move, we did the unthinkable and put the Christmas tree up early.  Yes, we are still observing our Advent rituals.  For example, here are the little girls joyfully watching the Advent candles burn:

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Yes, those candles are crooked; it’s the best we can do around here.

But we did it; we committed Liturgical Sin and bought a huge, 9-foot Fraser Fir right smack in the middle of Advent.*

Oh, what a tree!  Just for fun, here are some photos of the children decorating it.

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All said and done:

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If you look closely at the foot of the fireplace, you’ll see our Nativity Stable and Inn.  (You know, the Inn that rejected Joseph and Mary.)  Of course Joseph and Mary aren’t there yet, in fact, they wandering around in the kitchen cupboards right now, and the children are having a jolly, good time playing with all the shepherds, sheep, and inn keepers.

Favorite Christmas Ornament?

All my birds.  One cannot have enough birds in a Christmas tree.

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Isn’t he cute?

Ok, I really like this ornament too.  It’s my husband in 1987.  He made this ornament for his mother, and she graciously gave it to us.

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Isn’t he cute too?

*Next year, however, we do plan on waiting until the last possible moment for buying and putting up a Christmas tree.  Truly, there is something really special about that.  See HERE for it.
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Our Trip and a Few Advent Ideas

We are finally back from our tri-state tour.  It began with some medical appointments in Rochester, MN.  Although Paul is experiencing daily headaches, these are very minor, compared to what he went through earlier this year.  He is, in fact, doing well.  His doctors are pleased, and so are we.

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Paul, during an EEG, wherein doctors look for potential seizure activity.  (They found none.)

After Paul’s medical appointments, we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe again.  (See HERE for our first trip.)  Our family has a particular devotion to her.  Her feast day, by the way, is coming up on December 12th.

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Here are the children outside the main church.

And here’s the interior:

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The lovely thing about the Shrine is that they celebrate the TLM every Sunday.

This time we were able to explore the outdoor Way of the Cross and the Rosary Walk.  These are paved trails dotted with reflections and benches.

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This is the entrance to the Way of the Cross.

And because she’s so cute, here’s Child #6 up close:

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Her shoes are on the wrong feet.  It’s amazing how that always happens.  (And doesn’t seem to bother her.)

After the Shrine, we checked out St. James the Less Catholic Church, also in La Crosse.

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This is a stunning church.  And hey!  Look, no table altar.

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Now that is how one builds an altar.

This parish offers both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass.  Both are obviously celebrated Ad Orientem, as again, there’s no table altar.

Here’s a look at the ambo.

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That is a statue of St. Michael the Archangel next to it.

I could only dream of worshiping at a church like this.  I hope the parishioners of St. James know what a treasure they have!

After Wisconsin, we traveled to South Dakota and celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended family.  We had about 51 people gathered together at my sister’s house.  My aunt, Karen, led us in prayer, we sang America the Beautiful, and we ate and visited and laughed.  I am so thankful for my family!

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Here we all are, Thanksgiving Day morning

Anyone Need Advent Ideas?

And lastly, if anyone is in need of Advent ideas, I strongly recommend Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Advent video, which is mostly directly towards men and fathers of families.  In this short, 15-minute video, he offers 5 challenges for Advent:

  1. Attend the TLM 4 times during Advent.
  2. Read all of 2 Maccabees.
  3. Pray the rosary every day.
  4. Fast 2 days of the week.
  5. And celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as you would Thanksgiving.

Click HERE for it.  Seriously, he’s right.  These are great ideas for Advent and worthwhile trying to do, if you don’t already do them.  Our family has never done #5, and we’re going to try to step it up this year.

And if that isn’t enough, watch his video on Advent traditions that he does with his family.  This video is interesting because his wife, Joy, joins him.  Click HERE for that video and enjoy!

 

Life is Worth Living

The Agony of Advent

Advent is just around the corner, and you know what that means, right?  You guessed it, piano recitals.

I know it’s the first thing you thought of too because your kid is probably practicing Go Tell It on the Mountain right now.  You’ve heard that song so many times that you have his every mistake memorized.  And you’ve silently made a mental note to delete it from your iTunes playlist for when Christmas does finally arrive.

I used to think that Advent piano recitals, wherein every child plays a Christmas piece, were a bit disordered.  Aren’t we suppose to wait until December 25th to listen to Christmas music?  So, why not have that concert during the Christmas Season?  Everybody’s bored in January anyway.

But I’m older and wiser now.  I know why these recitals are held during Advent.  It’s because Advent is meant to be a Penitential Season, and there is no greater form of penance than sitting through an hour of children slogging through Christmas jingles.

It’s not there that aren’t some really good pieces being played.  Oh, there are.  It’s just that I’ve got to sit through 5 of my own children playing.  FIVE.  So I can’t just sit back and relax after Little Therese pecks out Silent Night.  No, I’ve got to sweat it through 4 more.

Oh, the agony!  My stomach drops with every mistake made.  Perspiration breaks out on my forehead.  My heart races as I sit on the edge of my chair.  It doesn’t even have to be my kid playing the piece, if whomever fumbles a little, I start trembling and biting my nails.  I wonder if it would be an appropriate time to take out my rosary and begin praying on my knees.

By the time the hour is over, I’m weak and exhausted, as I lean back into my chair.  It feels as if I’ve staggered across a marathon finish line and by George I deserve a drink.

Cheers to a Season of Recitals!  Cheers to Perspiration and Sweat!  Three Cheers for Advent!

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P.S.  For those of you who homeschool, there’s a great article from OnePeterFive HERE.

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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.
Call Me Catholic

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!