Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Long Wait for Christmas





Christmas, it finally arrived.  This was the first year I really felt I was able to live the Advent spirit.  The waiting, the doing of things slowly and intentional, the not doing of some things all together.  Since November, there has been a lot of waiting, a lot of hesitant, but joyful anticipation all leading up to a few stressful, but wonderfully happy days.  Oh yes, I got to live Advent quite fully this year and it was well worth it.

I had my own private Advent calendar ticking on my phone.  A couple more days, a couple more weeks, but my calendar was counting up, not down and then on Christmas day that wonderful mark in the calendar - 12 weeks.  Second Trimester.  It was here, wonderfully coinciding with the end of the long wait of Advent and the joy of Christmas.

The week before was full of doctors appointments, blood tests, big results .... and all good news.  Finally, after almost three years of waiting; good news.

If we continue to be blessed, to be fortunate we'll meet this new little soul around the fourth of July.



Thank you for your support over the last few years.  Thank you for knowing about and caring about my four other children in their short lives.  I know our luck doesn't change the reality for so many of us out there, that there are still friends and readers here hoping and hurting.  I won't forget you, I won't stop praying for you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Finding Your Fiat - Tickets On Sale!!!

As of this morning ticket sales for the "Finding Your Fiat" Conference I helped dreamed up with Bonnie and Abbey (and a big cavalry save from Annie) are live!

This is a small women's conference that will take place next summer in Peoria, Illinois on June 24th and 25th.

Friday night there will be a talk from Jenna of Blessed is She and music from Marie Miller, along with drinks and appetizers and a chance to relax and enjoy some company.

Saturday will be the conference with key note speakers Jenna and Meg, with more music from Marie Miller and six breakout speakers to choose from to customize your experience.

This is a conference for all women - single, married, discerning, old, young, children, no children.  We wanted to make a special weekend that focused on bringing us all together and sharing and supporting the many ways God asks us to say "yes" to his plans in our lives.  Each of our speakers has been asked to say "yes" to a different plan.  We'll have single women, working women, stay at home mothers, wandering missionaries, women in the throws of young children and women who have homes full of older children, women who've been given many children and women who've stuggled to fill their homes.  They're all women who've heard a unique call from God and answered it - none of our speakers have a similar life, but all are living out beautiful lives for God.

We hope this conference will be just what you need and we hope that you'll feel at home and welcome.

You can find more information about speakers, tickets, local accomodations and more on the conference website HERE


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Waiting













Still so much to do, but so much done over the last few days.  After way to long with one member of this family out with a bug of one kind of another (I'm talking since Halloween) all of us were finally able to tackle some long overdue cleaning in the house.  It had reached "We've named the dusty bunnies" threshold and teetering into "I can't clean up the dust bunnies, they've accepted us as one of their own" territory.

In a fit of organizational frenzy, we tackled the living room, kids room and kitchen over the last few days.  Books and toys are rearranged, boxes of things are ready to go to Goodwill.  I have clear space on my counters (well until life continued one today); one thing I've come to learn is how much have clear, uncluttered space affects me in my house.  It feels good to have things tucked away.

I even got a little shelf up in the bathroom to help keep the sink cleared as our "one-butt" bathroom is definitely lacking in the storage area.

I even snuck out of the house the other day and got a haircut.  Probably not the biggest news, but I haven't had one in around 6 months and I feel like a new person.

Christmas is slowly creeping in.  The Christmas tree is up and I kind you not every string of lights we owned was dead when we tried to light the tree this year.  Even the outdoor lights we'd hung and lit a few days before died on that same day.

The straw for Baby Jesus reward system is working nicely this year.  I think this is the first year he really "gets it" in terms of the build-up to the holidays.

There are a few things left on our to do list before the holidays.  Getting a few things sent out.  Wrapping up gifts,  Getting greenery, which I'm hoping to do tomorrow.  And baking!  I'm ready for shortbread and deviled eggs.

The only "bad" thing is that it's been unseasonably warm here - like in the 60's warm.  I'm a winter loving girl and it's breaking my heart that it's too warm inside and out to use our big stack of firewood in the garage and I just haven't felt like knitting or doing any of my other winter type things.  I don't think I could survive somewhere that didn't have real seasons to mark the holidays.  Christmas needs to feel like winter for me or it's not quite right.

In the end, though I feel like I'm getting a lot of practice with the waiting part of Advent this year.  There's been a lot of waiting and a little more waiting to come - projects, festivities and other things have all synced up with the Advent season this year making Christmas feel like a bigger event than it has in the past.  I'm learning a lot about waiting and preparing - not just my surroundings, but myself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

St. Nicholas Arrives






St. Nicholas has arrived.  I'm really liking what our St. Nicholas traditions are becoming.  What was once just gifts of pretty wooden animal toys has become an intentional filling of the manger.  "Santa" is planning on surprising Henry with a Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus this year on Christmas when we fill up the barn with "good deed" straw.

I'm really hoping my advent story collection that I picked out this year is a good one.  We'll dive into that tonight.

We managed to get to school with only one chocolate eaten - pretty good by our standards.

And this year St. Nicholas left a letter telling Henry that he's doing a good job learning to be good, and suggesting a few spots that Jesus would like him to improve on (eating dinner and being good at church).  It ended with a suggestion to go through our toys and give some away and he left three "Giving Coins" for Henry to give away to other people.

And so we march forward - more cleaning, a little more planning - always something to do around here.  =)

**I get my wooden toys from here.  If you email them they can send you their full list of items which is fantastic**

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In Good Time






Slowly, slowly.  That's been the apparently theme this year.  Things have gotten off to a very slow, but very enjoyable start.  Various projects and things have been requiring me to pace myself and it works.

Decorations and cleaning are going in stages and it feels right for Advent.  Like those last few weeks anticipating a new baby, things get done, but often slowly.  A bit of work here, a rest there.

I want to remember for next year that St. Nicholas Day is a good day to get things going.  It was nice to give myself a week after Thanksgiving to get things done and not rush the Advent stuff.  Of course it's important, but catching up on four or five days of Advent calendars and little traditions at once later in the week still felt just as good.

Now I feel ready to pull out the rest of the Christmas books, and the lights and maybe a book for myself off the shelf.  Early this week it just felt too soon; too rushed.

There are still plenty of thigs to do, corners to clean, decorations to get out, and lights to be strung.  But somethings you just can't rush.  All in good time.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Announcing the "Finding Your Fiat Catholic Women's Conference"!!!

Some friends and I have been working on something behind the scenes for a couple of months now and today is the day I finally get to tell everyone. 

This summer, June 24-25, Bonnie EngstromAbbey Davis Dupuy, Annie T. and I will be offering a Catholic women's conference called Finding Your Fiat.


From Bonnie:

"We really believe it will be great. We talked about what we wanted in a conference (a fun, come as you are night out + talks given by women we know and admire who can speak to our hearts about our lives + affordable!) and then we set out to make it happen. 

We kept things simple (no vendors, no swag bags, nothing too fancy) which kept ticket prices and our stress levels low. We focused on bringing in great speakers and a yummy lunch and booked a parish hall so we could have access to Reconciliation, Mass, and a quiet chapel to pray. 

Our speakers will be amazing! Jenna Guizar and Meg Hunter-Kilmer will be keynoting and our growing list of breakout speakers already includes Annie Tillberg and Marie Miller.

Friday night we're co-hosting a Girls' Night Out with Blessed Is She and it will be wonderful. So. Much. Fun.

Tickets will go on sale soon but we wanted to share the date and info with you now so you can make plans and possibly add it to your Christmas wishlist. 

You can learn more about the Finding Your Fiat conference at our website. And I hope I can see you this summer!"

From Molly:

We want you to know that this is first and foremost about meeting women where they are - we hope to have something to interest older and younger women, mothers, single women, women discerning their vocations or facing struggles in their lives.  Among our two keynote and 6 breakout speakers we hope that there is something for each of us.

We want this to be something that is just fun, no stress.  By offering Friday only, Saturday only and Weekend Bundle tickets we hope we can help fit your schedule and budget.  By keeping things simple in our venue, decor, group size (tickets are limited!) and other offerings we hope you feel at ease.

We hope this is just what you need and hope to see you next summer!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A St. Nicholas Lesson



My 7th grade Religious Education stuents picked St. Nicholas as our patron Saint for the year, and with his feast day coming up I wanted to do something special.  So today I put together a little goody bag of St. Nick related things for them.

Included:

  • An Orange: A Traditional gift symbolizing St. Nicholas' giving of gold.
  • Candy Canes:  Representing his Bishops "crozier" or staff.
  • A Prayer Card: Because... Catholic.
  • Candy Santa:  Because.... I get to send them home once they're sugared up.
  • Chocolate Gold Coins: A Traditional St. Nicholas gift, symbolizing the gold he left to save 3 poor girls from slavery
  • A Band-Aid:  Because sometimes you get a little over-zealous defending your faith.




Our St. Nicholas approves.

The last thing I have for them, not shown, is a Gold Sacajawea Dollar.  I plan on giving them these at the end of class with the rule that the coins are not for them to keep.  They must find some way to give it away, secretly, before Christmas.  They can help a friend buy lunch or putting in the offering basket or the Salvation Army kettle or leave it as part of a tip if their family goes out to eat, but the rule is they can't tell anyone about it.  St. Nicholas gave his giving in secret because he knew that getting recognition for good deeds isn't what's important and I want to give them the opportunity, even if it's just a dollar coin, to feel what it's like to give with no expectation of receiving anything back.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent: A Little Goes a Long Way.

These past few months with my Religious Education students has really been great.  They've reminded me how much I love interacting with 7th graders, how exhausting teaching can be and how much we discount the pre-teens in our society.  They are in the perfect cusp of age where they still see learning as possibly cool, yet they're starting to actually make observations about their world and challenge what they've been taught.  It's a pretty amazing age when you get past the smartphone addiction and the tendency to talk back.

Though one of the best things they've taught me so far is about how I'm teaching and creating my faith in my home.

Let me put it gently:  Anything counts.

You do not need special decor or a million feast days or piles of crafts.  You do not need to do what everyone else is doing or follow their rules.

These kids, your kids, my future seventh graders just desperately need you to do something.  They need families with no Advent traditions just to buy a wreath and remember to put candles in it.  They need families who remember the wreath and the candles to remember to light them once in a while.  They need someone to sit with them at least once a year and make sure they know the Christmas story.

They don't need a lot, they just need something.  Something to remind them that our Christmas is different than what they see in the stores or on T.V.  Something that will give them even the smallest building block to start from as they get older and start their own families.

Something, anything goes a long way.  Just remembering to bring your faith home goes a long way.  Just trying goes a long way.

My house doesn't get super decked out for the holidays (about 1.5 rooms get the treatment).  We don't have lots of crafts or traditions - we do chocolate coins and simple Advent Calendars.  We don't do a lot of feast days or activities - we do books and movies and little lessons along the way.  It often seems like we don't do enough, but if my 7th graders have taught me something it's that a little faith in the home goes a long way.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Keeping It Simple: What Works for the Holidays

Oh, the holidays are almost here.  This year we'll be traveling for five days this week and then, boom, it's Advent.

I think this is the first year I've felt a little on top of things and that might be because there isn't a lot to feel on top of.  There are a few things I've worked out over the last few years that really seem to work for us:


  1. Christmas Shop Early:  This is the second year I've done this - other than putting a few treat baskets together and brainstorming a gift for one set of family members I'm done.  Stockings are shopped for, presents are shopped for, Advent Calendar and Candles are in the closet, etc.  Come December 1st there are 3 items left to go on my list and they're items that have a limit shelf life.  I've come to realize I *hate* spending my three weeks of December shopping non-stop.  I do feel silly Christmas shopping in September, but it works.
  2. Budget:  I set aside a set amount slowly all year and spend from there.  It keeps me on track and makes me to put a lot of thought into things that I want to get use out of over junk.
  3. Set Limits and Have Reasons:  Since Henry was little I've set us up on the "three gift rule" for our main gift giving.  It makes sense to me, works for our family and I've seen the results so it's definitely a keeper.  I've also learned that it has to make sense within my "family culture" or no one will stick with it.
  4. Budget for Giving:  I also set aside a larger chunk for charity and giving in December.  So I'm going into this year feeling like I get to give, give, give (I haven't decided where the money is going yet) instead of spend, spend, spend.  We have some charities in mind, plus extra to give at church and the rest I want on hand just to tip extra if we go out to eat, say yes to any friends who are fundraising or need a hand this coming month.
  5. Know Where the Decorations Are:  Organization is not my middle name, but this year I have a pretty good idea of where things are and don't feel the need to get things set up on day one.
  6. Love the Consumables:  I don't need to fill my house with more permanent stuff so during the holidays I prefer to focus on things like food and crafts that I don't feel I need to hang on to forever.  So we make lots of hot chocolate and popcorn, "ninja" bread cookies and decorate our windows - it's all stuff that's fun to do and make and eat, but doesn't require keeping anything around very long.
  7. Know My Strengths:  Master Decorator?  No.  Master Baker?  Nope.  Master Liturgical Day Planner?  Not at all.  That's just not who I am and if I spend the next month running around trying to make my house, food or days look like someone else's it's not worth.  Instead, I have a few keep parts of my house that get decorated, I don't bake a lot of things that are photograph worthy and we don't have a long list of liturgical celebrations.  But what we do have finally feels doable, they make sense with our family strengths and size and personalities.  All in all, it probably balances out to one or two special things a week during Advent and Christmastide - that feels attainable for the stage we're in and manageable as we grow and want to add and delete.
My house might not be the most inspiring for the holidays, but we have fun together and have our own traditions.  There's little that goes on here that's worthy of a photo spread, but it's ours and while I love seeing glimpses into other people's lives - the people who rock decorations or baking or extra special things or handmade everything I've definitely come to learn that sometimes it's just okay to window shop or admire someone's skills or talents and not feel like my life needs to have all of that to be special.  Occasionally I gleam something that would work with our home, but most times I just like to appreciate.

We decorate windows and make ninja-breadmen.  We celebrate St. Nicholas Day and try to keep up with our Advent Calendar and wreath.  We try to attend a concert or something similar.  We spend a lot of time not doing anything fancy and just being together around our fireplace.  We do Santa and Epiphany and giving and receiving.  We do music and decorations - all in a way that fits us and that's starting to feel just right.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Of Leaves and Legos


















Not much to say here.  I've been fighting the bronchitis that just won't quit for over two weeks now.  I'm sore, sick and exhausted.  I've also, in my typical style, bitten off more that I can chew in terms of extra projects and feel like I'm just treading water right now - there just aren't enough hours in the day to work, recover, teach, plan and still see my family.

We've had our fun - time outside enjoy this incredibly warm November and time inside building some epic Lego spaceships with Dad.

Just taking it one day at a time.

Monday, November 9, 2015

5 Red Cup Alternatives to Stem the "Rage"

Apparently people are outraged that Starbucks cups are red.  If it was a question on a game show I'd have to use a lifeline in order to tell you that the Starbucks cups even change for the holidays, let alone what it usually is.  Personally, I feel that this is a carefully crafted marketing ploy as most "outrage" (of which there seems to be little of actually) seems to have come after the reports of outrage.  Well done Starbucks, well done.

So to any of those among us who are so filled with the Christian holiday spirit that this is actually the most serious issue in your mind - ignoring trivial things like Syrian refugees, Ebola sufferers or even the now homeless family who normally sits next to you at Church one Sudnay - I've come up with the perfect underrepresented Christmas figures to adorn your Starbucks cups.

1. Zwarte Piet



Lovingly described by satarist David Sedaris as "8 to 10 black men" who assist Scandinavian Santa Claus' do their work. Unless you grew up in a country where Piet was a common sight in your holiday gatherings, this is the perfect symbol for a complete lack of knowledge of modern day stereotypes or anything else that may be going on in the world.

2. Kallikantzaros



How about a traditional half-person/half-goat hybrid who is said to run rampant during the 12 days of Christmas.  Nothing friendly than a Kallinkantzaros could possibly adorned my $27 latte.  Luckily the term "kallinkantzaros" is used to describe a wide range of ugly creatures only bent on making trouble and detracting from the meaning of the season.... so Starbucks, save a few for Easter too.

3.  The Krampus


Since nothing says "Celebrate the Birth of the Savior" quite like people turning away from you in fear and disgust, let's go big or go home and put the Krampus on our favorite hyper caffinated pretend-its-real-coffee.  All commemorative Krampus cups will be given out with a traditional birch switch with which to swat non-believers between the eyes and really share that holiday spirit.

For the fourth and fifth suggestions we must go to the mythical land of Catalonia, which I know little about, but based on their very special Christmas traditions - these people know how to have a good time.

4. The Caganer



Let's just get the point, this is would be a perfect holiday design on a Starbucks Red Cup for every person who feels the needs to "dump" on social media with their absolutely idiotic opinions about Starbucks and their vicious war on religion.  Thank you Catalonia, thank you.

5. Tio de Nadal



But nothing screams "Perfect Red Cup Design" than another Catalonian tradition, the Tio de Nadal.  The aptly named "Caga Tio" (check out what that means here) combines all our well placed righteous anger and allows us to focus on the "pile" of consumerism we really think is important during the holidays.  It celebrates both our needs for a little holiday violence and rediculous demands to be catered to.  Really, I couldn't think of a more appropriate image for Red Cup Ragers.


*no offense meant of course if any of these are actually part of your beloved holiday traditions; it's all in good fun here*

Saturday, October 31, 2015

This is Halloween.


































I'm ready for a long winter's nap.  Another Halloween has come and gone.  A successful homemade costume if I say so myself, a little fun sewing for myself and the decorating all came together.  The pumpkins were carved in the traditional "Shark, Skeleton Fish, and Squid Fight a Sperm Whale" motifs, along with some scary faces.

There were "mummy hotdogs" for dinner and hot chocolate for a treat and a nice warm fire to top everything off.  Plus our black cat was appropriately annoyed by all the goings on for the entire day.

My son brought back enough candy to last us till the New Year, including multiple regular sized bag of M&M's and Skittles, a few glow in the dark things and one book (yep, some lady down the street was giving out books!  How great is that?)

And I'm just hoping he's tired enough to sleep the whole night through and let me enjoy that extra hour tonight.
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