>Almost Wordless Wednesday

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Last week:
Another yearly tradition, Booboo style.A belated bday party.
The main event:
The Annual Polar Plunge!
{air temp approx 26 degrees}

The payoff: a hot jacuzzi and bragging rights!
Teens are fun.

>It begins: Too Many Tamales!

>Today I begin the work of what is an annual tradition, one I love, and one that I usually think – about 3/4 of the way through – “what was I thinking?”

Because today we start the tamales!
It takes at least two days for me to make good tamales, the real deal.

That is because the first day is to cook the meat, traditionally brisket, long and slow, simmered in spices until it breaks down into melty shreds of yummy goodness. Then it is taken out and shredded and the broth saved and refrigerated to defat. Next day I make the cornmeal, just the way my mom taught me, do the final seasoning and moistening of the meat with the broth, soak the husks, and then lay out all the items and start the laborious but comforting assembly.

And then I, or we, make tamales! Sometimes the kids, usually the girls, help, sometimes we watch a movie as we do it, or put on music or just talk. It’s a nice time and we usually end up with seven or eight dozen tamales. We pressure cook the whole lot in batches to set them and then sneak one or two piping hot, just to taste test, you know. I know, it’s a lot but we give some away and freeze the rest and I only make them about once a year, so I might as well make a bunch!

I grew up in the southwest and tamales were a much longed for, much anticipated treat. Because the only “good” tamales were homemade, period. All others were suspect, I mean, who knew what they put in there? But I knew what was supposed to be in there. Because every year I watched my mom and my aunt make tamales. They only did it once a year, maybe twice if some really special occasion arose or some extra effective begging and coercion took place. But for New Year’s Eve, we ate tamales!

My father’s birthday is New Year’s Eve. My sister’s birthday is New Year’s Day. They both love tamales and so shared this birthday feast, every year. And for me, part of the appeal was sitting near my mom and my favorite aunt, listening to them talk and watching the rhythm of their hands laying out the corn husks, smearing the masa, dabbing on the filling, then folding and rolling up the tamale into a kind of beautiful little present, folded and wrapped up into it’s own perfect bundle.

For years, I didn’t even like to eat them, just liked to make them. Imagine! But I was a young and stupid and picky child. Now, I know better and happily, children, all of them, are clearly much wiser than me!

So it’s a family feast. It’s a tradition that calls back to the southwest where both Coffeedoc and I were raised and that we love. It’s a connection back to my family and my memories. And it keeps me and my family connected and having a cross country birthday party with my dad and my sister, as we all have our tamales on New Years Eve and toast the new year but also the birthdays.

Anyhow, I love tradition! Heck I went through grad school for folklore/folklife and literature, of course I do! This is one of the oldest in my life and one that is very dear to me. So, I’d better get to work! Time to start the tamales!

>Happy Birthday Miss M!

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Happy Happy Birthday Miss M!
You are ten years old today!
Double digits, already!
You are such a special girl.
Born in Nashville, you were my surprise baby!
The best surprise I’ve ever had!

You came home to us at two weeks old. You weren’t sure about the changes. It took you a bit to get used to us, but we fell fast for you and your big brown eyes. Even today, you don’t like change much, but now we can all laugh about it.
You and your sister were teeny babies together, like twins but not. You were almost exactly the same size for years, shared clothes and baskets and beds. But now you are getting bigger, in different ways, but certainly with the clothes. And that is ok, because you love your jeans and today you get your own closet, in the multi-room swap!You, Miss M, are a beauty.
We don’t tell you too often because we don’t want you to get the big head….but you are beautiful and strong.
Even your hair and your oh so tender head, is a gift that someday (when you alone are doing the brushing) you will appreciate fully.
But best of all, you are beautiful inside as well as out.
You have one of the very biggest hearts I know.
You can well over in tears from just hearing about something sad, be it a kitten or a friend or a movie with your mom.
You worry about others more than others do.
You are considerate and think about things they might need and how to help them.
And then you do it.
That’s remarkable.
You are just like me: we call it control freak (but with a smile).
And we saw it early: in your ability, even as a toddler, to bring your temper under control as we watched – a seemingly superhuman effort in such a small girl.
You love having control of your body, your time, your plans, your things.
This will make you nuts some, and does, but it also makes you and I understand each other sw well and work so well together!
And it is one of your strengths.
You are probably one of my strongest kids, on different levels.
Physically, you are an amazing natural athlete.
I half expect to scream my lungs out for you at the Olympics someday; it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
To watch you gallop across a field or shoot those hoops is so fun, it takes my breath.
God made you so well, with a strong coordinated body that can do almost anything you set your mind to.
I marvel at that.
You have a laugh that sounds like water in a brook; and makes the whole family smile and start laughing when we hear it.
You love to laugh, at your brother or giggling with your sisters, or at a joke or at mom.
You are my best eater and the most fun kid to feed, and I wish I had your metabolism!
You love love love the color purple.
And you love love the Little Mermaid!
You are growing into a bigger kid but you are not too big to play with dolls with your sister either.
You are a sleeper: you need it and want it and are happy to do it!
You are a helper, with or without being asked.
You have a strong strong will, that will take you far in life, on big amazing adventures.
You are smart and resilient.

Miss M, you are a giver.

And that, I think, is why your smile is so beautiful and one of the things we love the very most about you: your big giving heart.
You were given to us as a great Christmas season gift, but you give yourself to your family and especially your sister Bird ever so much more.

So Happy Happy Tenth Bday Miss M!
We love you so very much and are so very proud of you.
We hope all your birthday wishes come true!

>The Feast of the Holy Family

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Michelangelo, The Holy Family

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family!

Now this is a feast that makes me happy (ok, hence the discombobulated mood today).
As you might gather, family is a big deal to me. Literally and figuratively!
And to have a day that puts special emphasis on the beauty and importance of family is just a gift. And what better role models to have than the Holy Family, of course! And all too often St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family is kind of lost in the Christmas shuffle. Go read Elizabeth Foss for a good article on St. Joseph.

“For the past few weeks, we have been so intensely focused on the coming of Jesus Christ, that today the Church invites us to take a step back and look at a larger picture: The Holy Family. The Son of God, in His Divinity, could have come to us full grown and alone. Or he could have come as a child under the protection of some royal court. Instead, he chose to come to us in the midst of the most fundamental dynamic in human life: the family. The first thing Jesus sanctified by his presence was a family home”
from Phat Catholic, go read


Anyhow, this topic is an important one for me. I look to the Holy Family for inspiration, prayers, and as a role model (that I will never achieve, of course). But really, we are called to be the domestic church, to model that giving service, that love in our own families and homes. And God was so good to provide us with a family that we can look to. They had to go through all sorts of difficulties, stress, fears as well as happiness, companionship, joy and everyday life. Maybe, just maybe, Mary questioned Joseph’s ideas once or twice (“really, get up, leave, go to Egypt?, really, now??? Ack, ok!”) and surely they worried about work and we know they did chores and got tired and lived quiet mundane regular life for many (well, 30) years.

And that gives me comfort. When I am in the midst of another messy kitchen or loads of laundry, with dinner needing to me cooked and Coffeedoc calling, well, it is nice to know that it is ok, this is how it’s supposed to be. It gets messy and tired and worried and quiet and regular too. And I can know that, stone cold, because the Holy Family did it. Period.

There is holiness in the everyday quiet life of the family, big or small. There can certainly be growth in holiness as well (and a big upcurve ahead there, in this house) but this is some of the most fertile ground for it. The family. The linchpin. The foundation. So today, we celebrate, with great thanksgiving the feast of the Holy Family.

Here too are a few more links: to good reads, to good holy families:
The Deacons Bench has a good homily on the Holy Family, worth a look.
Juli at Happy Catholic, always great.
Jennifer, at Conversion Diary, she heads up a holy family!
As does Michele at Family-Centered Life, and Margaret at Minnesota Mom, and Danielle Bean and so many others, but if I start to list them all then I’ll get someone mad at me or their feelings hurt. So to make it simpler, go to the sidebar and check out most of the adoptive blogs (because right there, ya got the whole St. Joseph connection in particular) and the Catholic moms links too. That’s the other cool thing about this feast: if you look, you’ll see examples all around you! How glorious, how cool is that! Thanks be to God!

Holy Family, pray for us!

>The Holy Innocents

>There are some feast days in the Church that are hard.
I suppose they all should be in a way…in that the term “feast day” when applied to a Catholic memorial, often and traditionally (but not exclusively, see Feast of the Holy Family, above) means the day of passing from this material world into everlasting life. It means death. But it also means a step into the most real life and the one that is eternal, with no suffering and glorious true union with Christ; therefore for that person – unspeakable joy.

And that is the prelude to today. Today is a double whammy, so to speak.

First, this post, we have to talk about today’s feast day, this fourth day of Christmas: the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Or, I have to talk about it because I am out of sorts over it, in a blue funk.

I hate this feast day. It is so hard to wrap my mind around this one and it leaves me out of sorts, every year. My poor skills in communicating, much less writing coherently here, combined with the whole mystery surrounding this feast leaves me stuttering over words.

And yet, this is an important day to remember.

And as mom, it touches a very deep part of me in hurt and anger and sorrow. This part of the Mass reading for this day, it makes me cry:

Matthew 2:18
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation:
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled because they were no more.”

Therefore, instead of stumbling along with my utterly inadequate words, I leave you with what I turn to: art and the writings of holier, more learned people. The art is posted, a few pieces. The words are below:

Matthew 2:16
“Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
“There is no easy explanation for suffering, least of all for the suffering of the innocent. St. Matthew’s narrative, which we read in today’s Mass, shows us the suffering, apparently useless and unjust, of some children who gave their lives for a Person and for a Truth whom they didn’t even know.”
In Conversation with God 1, Advent and Christmastide

“There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. For the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God’s life”
F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus

Painting by William Holman Hunt

This feast day, I halfway want to ignore it…certainly not talk about it, explain it. Is recognizing it condoning it? That’s a nonsensical question but it springs into my head. It’s that torn jumbley feeling.

But it’s not that the Church made this stuff up, it’s not a novel or a screenplay. It’s real. It happened. It’s not the Church doing revisionist history or some horror writer hoping to make a buck. It’s biblical. It’s horror. It’s an historical event that makes us weep and cringe even today – because it is evil. It is face to face with unspeakable evil. And it is just too close for comfort. But, then again, evil usually is. That’s part of it’s whole package. It should make us shrink from it, and shake our heads without comprehending, asking “why, how” as we weep. But even the glory of Christmas, the birth of this baby, cannot be fully comprehended without the cross, and it was found and pointed to, from the very beginning. Go here, to an article by the excellent Amy Welborn for a worthwhile read on that.

“…these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men.”
Catholic Culture.org


“Oh God, on this day, the Holy Innocents gave witness to you, not by words but by a martyr’s death. We profess our faith in words: grant that the holiness of our lives may confirm the witness of our tongues.”
Collect of the Mass

>It’s Alive!

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Baby Alive Doll by Hasbro

I feel like I am in a bad “B” movie….. Because we got Bird a begged for bday gift, to her utter delight and to my dismay. Not that I can actually blame anybody for this, it was my choice to cave…. But we did, I did, I did it. I bought her a Baby Alive doll for her bday.

And oh does she love it.
She carts that baby here and there, up and down the stairs, hither and yon.
They are feeding the baby, changing the baby, dressing the baby in all sorts of getups.

And frankly, it’s creeping me out.

The food: it’s not edible (because that would cause all sorts of mold growth on the innards of this thing). It looks like baby food mush of some sort but in a nuclear accident sort of way. The diapers, they have pee stains that again, are like pee on some nasty antibiotic: neon. And don’t even get me started on the loop this links you into: the surely astronomical cost of these supplies that need replenishing (and nope, I’m not paying for that, and yup, I am cheap).

I know, on one level this is very great role playing for my girl. It is right up her ally to nurture and pretend all this, and on something that isn’t living and so it can’t be hurt or maimed.

But still…The creepiest part of this doll is the talking. The moving mouth, the blinking eyes, the singsong voice loops: “Mommy, I’m hungry. Oops, I had an accident. Let’s play. I need a change! I love you Mommy.” And as she says this you hear the whirring of her moving parts and she blinks her big googly disturbing eyes and it just makes me kind of cringe. It makes Sbird giggle in glee.

I don’t know. I am not a total Scrooge, I swear. I mean, I bought it for her bday, after much begging. I knew, kind of, what we were getting into (though really, it’s just way more disturbing in person than in a catalog pic). And now you all get to realize I have issues, I guess…

But this doll, she creeps me out. She’s like a little nightmare event waiting to happen in the house, huh? Every time she is playing with that doll, a voiceover plays in my head of the mid 1960’s announcer saying “It’s Aliiiivveeee.”

I have clearly watched too many Twilight Zone’s when I was younger.
But this doll: on that show, she’d be a star!

>Best Christmas Gift Ever!

>Yes, that’s right, it’s Sbird’s Birthday today!
Ten years old, already!Sbird is our Christmas baby!
It’s not always easy to have a Christmas birthday, but we think it’s extra special!
Although it can make it even harder to wait for this big day!Born in Philadelphia, we flew to you during a blizzard, excited and terrified, both, to meet you.
You were my teensiest baby.
The smallest baby I’ve held, period.
We met you at five days old, and you were not even five pounds then.
I fell in love in an instant.
You had your father blinking back tears and saying, “Let me hold her!”
But I wasn’t letting go, not yet.
I couldn’t.
I was falling fast, for this teeny tiny little girl with soft curls and tiny chubby cheeks, I had to hold on.From that moment, you were electric.
You were our “peanut sized package of joy.”
You were funny and a jabberbox (ok, still a talker) and you were inseperable from your sister, Miss M.
You used to tell us what she was saying before she even talked.
And you seemed to get it right!
Even as tiny babies, you shared a Moses Basket and our bed.
You have shared a room since –
And your giggles and scowls and clothes and whispers and tears and toys.You were our best Christmas gift ever, but you are probably each others best gift ever too.
And I think you always will be.You came to us as a Christmas surprise, I think as a literal living reminder of what love means.
You have taught me so much, and keep teaching me the things I need so much to learn:
How to love unconditionally, how to slow down, how to live in the moment, to take one day at a time, to not give up, no matter what.
You are a remarkable child.You have always had a smile that can light up a room like a candle.
And I see you work harder, give more, every day than most of us ever know, or do.
I see your strength, so much in such a tiny wiry little body.
And then I see you fall asleep and am reminded that you are just an amazing sweet small girl, even though you are ten.
Things for you can seem complicated, but they are not, not really.
They are simple in so many ways, in the important ones.
You love your family.
Your family loves you.
You are one of the sisters.
You are a girly girl!
You are a fashion fanatic!
You are crazy creative!
You love a party!
You have a sweet tooth to challenge your mom’s!
You are an early bird like me too.
We love our time in the morning, just the two of us.
You have the biggest brown eyes, and if I remember, I can fall into them again.
And then Dad says, again, “Let me hold her!”
And you giggle and smile and climb on his lap for a Dad hug.
Happy Happy Tenth Birthday Sbird!
We love you so much and are so proud of you!

You are our Christmas baby.
And yes, it makes you extra special;
God knew you were, he sent you to us on Christmas so we would never forget it.

Merry Christmas Birthday Baby!

>Christmas Eve

>It’s Christmas Eve.

Possibly the most beautiful day – well, night – of the year.
Certainly one of my top favorites!
Despite the sleepy fatigue.
Despite the to-do list, hopefully checked off, twice.

We are going to midnight Mass.
And yes, it’s at midnight!
{And yes, it makes me crazy when they have midnight Mass or services not at midnight…I mean, what’s up with that??? It misses the whole point, for goodness sake! But I digress…..}

So, yup, we are going to midnight Mass.
All of us.
And it will be hard to re-wake the kiddles, and dress them and nudge them out the door.
But once the whining and moaning and groaning is done, I, erk, I mean they, we, are all so glad we made the effort.

Because midnight Mass is like magic.
It’s better than magic.
It is sacred.
It’s the Incarnation!

And it’s cold and dark outside and hushed.
And we file into the warm church from the deep cold night.
And we step in and we see….the church transformed.
It is filled with lights, white lights, greens and poinsettas bursting and filling the church with color and sparkling light, flickering candles and hymns by the choir.
And in the middle of it, in front of the altar is now the manger.
The church is filled to overflowing, with folks from all over, and all denominations, and that is so happy and awesome too.
And as we settle into our pew (and yes, we now take up a whole pew, just us), we unload our coats and bags and kneel.
And some of the kids fall asleep again, some big, some small.

And every year, I just about cry.
I can’t help it, I take a deep breath and close my eyes for a minute.
It makes tears spring to my eyes, and smile…because it is just so, well, happy, so literally joyous.
We grin at each other like fools, and yes, sometimes a teen will roll their eyes at the doofy parents.
But we can’t help it.

It’s the best news of all: a baby!
A baby has been born!
God himself has come down to us, in a tiny new little one.
The most special of babies; look, see and hear the heavens rejoicing!

And we all smile and breath deep and sigh.
It’s midnight Mass.

And it is simply glorious.

And the veil between heaven and earth is somehow thinner in this nighttime moment.
And we can feel the rejoicing running through us, right here in our little church.
The bells will ring in the night and as we head out back to home, awake and cold in the dark but filled with the biggest of celebrations: the warm of the church and the Mass, the Incarnation.

The little boy in the photo above gets the great privilege of lighting a candle at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
But we get the great privilege of going to Mass tonight, at midnight, sleepy and cold and tired….to wake our very souls up once more to the pure unspeakable joy that rings out tonight. It’s a baby, He is born!
It’s Christmas!

If you feel like seeing the most real miracle, go to midnight Mass.
I am so grateful for, and love, this Mass, this Christmas, this Gift.

Merry Christmas to all!

>O Tannenbaum

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Oh yeah. Oh Christmas Tree!

This year we went (or, Coffeedoc and most of the kiddles went) over the river and through the woods. Not to Grandmother’s house, but rather to the perfect Christmas tree farm. It’s almost the same thing…. Because Coffeedoc was in search of the perfect Christmas tree and wanted one fresh, not cut a month ago. Because, yes that’s right, we are only just now getting our tree up. Because some might say we are behind the curve. And they do. But we like to think we are right on time. Heck, even the Vatican just put up it’s tree. And if it’s good enough for the Pope, then it’s good enough for us! (Ok, so maybe we are week behind the curve…it’s a busy house, c’mon)
Because we have been celebrating and living advent. And Christmas lasts through Epiphany, which is, of course, on January 6th. And most of the trees found on the corner lot, well, they’ve been dead since Thanksgiving or before. So, by golly, this year we were gonna do it differently. No more fretting about the house going up in flames as the clock ticked the year away. No more squabbles about watering the tree when it wasn’t drinking. This year, we were gonna go get a tree, not a day too early.
And so we did.

Which means that Sunday Coffeedoc and bigger kids (save for Gabe and Miss M, we had a lovely day) went to find the best tree ever. And so they did.
Which means that yesterday was spent in the annual lighting tangle with requisite trips to various stores to find them empty of Christmas lights, stripped bare shelves all ready for post Christmas sales (sheesh!). Which means that after the manly grumbling teens got the lights around the very largish tree we were ready.
We were ready and small ones chomping at the bit for the the annual free-for-all of ornament giddyness and nostalgia called trimming the tree.
In years past, it seemed to take for-ever. This year, it went at warp speed. Even Boobo noticed it, and as a teen, any family activity tends to take too too long. Coffeedoc and I both laughed and said at the same time, “lots of hands, light work!” (Yeah, we’ve been married a long time, gotta love that mind meld stuff).
Of course, no surprise is the fun we all had watching Gabriel point and “ooh” and “Oh!” over the lights and the exciting ornaments; being lifted high by Buddybug to help.
So, we did it. Got the perfect tree: my favorite (thank you Coffeedoc!), a Frasier fir. It’s the biggest tree we’ve ever had. It’s the prettiest. And by golly, it IS the freshest too. It should certainly last in beauty and safety through the whole Christmas season: to Epiphany.

But what is even better is the fun and wonder that lights up the eyes of our youngest sweet son. I watch him park himself, legs out, in front of the tree early in the morning. Then soon enough wander over to see if he can grab an ornament (yes, the tree if bottom half bare, classic toddler decor) or click the light switch. So of course it’s one of my best gifts of all and the most fun: seeing Christmas for the first time, through his eyes.

>O Emmanuel

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O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), our king and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22),
hope and salvation of the peoples (Genesis 49:10; John 4:42):
come to save us, O Lord our God (Isaiah 37:20).

O EMMANUEL, rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium et salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Dominus Deus noster.

And you really can’t finish advent, or these O antiphons, without hearing this hymn. This is it. It is our cry in advent (well, always, but especially now). And it is one of my very very favorites, especially in this season. Enjoy.

>O Rex Gentium

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O King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:7) and their desire (Haggai 2:7),
cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16), who reunite Jews and pagans into one (Ephesians 2:14):
come and save the man whom you formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7).

O REX gentium et desideratus earum,
lapis angularis qui facis utraque unum:
veni et salva hominem quel de limo formasti.

>O Oriens

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O Star who rises (Zechariah 3:8; Jeremiah 23:5), splendor of the eternal light (Wisdom 7:26) and sun of justice (Malachi 3:20):
come and enlighten those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1; Luke 1:79).

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

>O Clavis David

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O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10),
who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open:
come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).

O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

>O Radix

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O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples (Isaiah 11:10),
the kings of the earth are silent before you (Isaiah 52:15) and the nations invoke you:
come to free us, do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

O RADIX Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

>O Adonai

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O Lord (Exodus 6:2, Vulgate), leader of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him the law (Exodus 20):
come and free us with your powerful arm (Exodus 15:12-13).

O ADONAI, dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.

Also follow along these seven days with Godzdogz, always wonderful.

>O Antiphons: Day One: O Sapientia

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Today begins the O antiphons –
ancient prayers that help prepare us,
our hearts and souls, for the coming of the real Christmas.

O Wisdom, who come from the mouth of the Most High (Sirach 24:5),
you extend to the ends of the earth, and order all things with power and sweetness (Wisdom 8:1):
come and teach us the way of wisdom (Proverbs 9:6).

For you latin geniuses: here you go, you’re welcome:

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

The “O” antiphons begin today! This is a venerable tradition during this advent season, really beautiful, lesser known it seems to me. To see a great link explaining this ancient advent tradition – sort of an old countdown to Christmas – go to Sandro Magister’s place, here.

These are just possibly the original inspiration for Dick Clark’s gig (and really right about the right era…so I’m just saying. Ok, kidding, it’s an old-folks joke. I’m entitled, check out my hair…). Now, I must put a disclaimer in here. I was raised in the era when teaching kids about the truths of our faith and the Church meant spending Sunday school classes making felt banners, by which I mean that I learned little to nothing as a kid and it’s been an steep learning curve as an adult. So forgive my ignorance (but go to the sites to actually learn something from folks who know) and bad jokes, it’s been a long punchy day I can’t help it.

Really, this is one of the advent traditions and prayers that sneak up on me and I haven’t ever really learned much about it. I always hear them about halfway through, day three or four and think “huh, what are those again?” Well, not this year by golly. This year I’m gonna pay attention, so, you get to as well, if you like.

The short version is this:

From today until the day before Christmas Eve, at the Magnificat during vespers in the Roman rite, seven antiphons are sung, one per day, all of them beginning with an invocation to Jesus, although he is never called by name.

The antiphons are very old, going back to the time of Pope Gregory the Great, around the year 600. They are in Latin, and are inspired by the texts of the Old Testament proclaiming the Messiah.”

I know, another Catholic thing. But really, this time of year is so rich and layered and gorgeous. It’s the beginning of the liturgical year and it’s simply glorious. Catholic Culture website also has a good explanation. So, check it out. Enjoy. {And just for the record: the prayers during these days are copied from Sandro Magister’s site, thank you, and the pics are random classics but also from excellent sources such as Godzdogz and other great Catholic sites.}

h/t American Papist

>Doh!

>

It’s happened.
He found it.
Gabe found that toddler power word: “no.”

His words have really started clicking. It’s great fun to listen to him. He can even put a few two word bits together: “bye bye mom” and “get down” (yes, he might have heard this one a few times…it’s a busy house, ok?). But this weekend, he finally claimed the biggy: “no.” But he does “no” with his own style, by which I mean, with volume and force and the cute mispronunciation: “Doh.”

To get the full effect, you have to imagine this at full throttle, full shout and repeated a minimum of four times, face stern or furious before he bursts into tears. He sounds like a cross between a Simpson character and a kid with a very stuffy nose. He hauls this show out every time you tell him “no Gabey, uh-uh” and he doesn’t want to be told no. So he just yells it back and then comes to me to be held as he starts to cry. Because it’s scary to try to grab such power for a little guy! We try not to laugh, but it’s hard not to. So it doesn’t have quite the effect he’s hoping for, not yet. Now of course we have to work on teaching him, “no, please.” We’ll get there.

And, yeah, he’s almost two. Perfect timing!

>Gaudete!

>

It’s Gaudete Sunday!
That means “rejoice!”

As my Sbird says, “It’s pink!”
Even the advent candle today is pink instead of purple.
So, what’s not to like?

It’s the third Sunday of advent and this Sunday is the day to remember that the whole reason for advent is to prepare for the coming birth of the Messiah. This is what we read in Mass today, Isaiah 61:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

This, here, is the song version of it I like, by Matt Maher, the one that has been running through my head today.

So today we rejoice. We are so close to Christmas! So close the birth of Jesus! Go to Amy Welborn, Anchoress, or Deacon for good posts on this joyous day.

For me, this is a happy day, I feel the call to rejoice. We have had a very ‘adventy” weekend: we are putting up Christmas lights on the house (I always balk but they are like magic in the dark), we are finishing the cards, we pulled the Christmas tubs out of the attic to find the stockings and stuff. I might even lose my head and make some cookies or gingerbread.

We are called to rejoice, not only today, but always. To give thanks and be glad in all things. And its not always so easy, but so worth the effort. The very cool Jana, new mom to the gorgeous cutie Ruthie, sent us an early Christmas gift. She is getting over jetlag and sleep deprivation and yet she found the time to send us a short video of our daughter in Ethiopia. It is the best minute on tape I’ve seen in ages! It shows her smiling and we get to hear her voice, just a whisper, but hers. And so, I dreamt about her, vividly, this morning. Such a Christmas gift, such an advent gift! Thank you Jana!

My thoughts are all muddly…..but I’ll blurt them out anyhow.
Somehow that short video is fitting for this weekend in particular. Because with it, we rejoice. With it we are able to prepare a little bit more for her arrival. We don’t know when it will be. But we are in preparation mode. Just as we are during advent. We prepare in our hearts and home for a new child, not a babe….but a new one coming to us. It is the welcoming of a stranger to us, and yet, not a stranger. Just like so long ago the world welcomed a new baby, a stranger to us, and yet, so not a stranger.

Preparation and rejoicing. That is our call for this weekend especially. Not too hard, after all, it’s pink all over: our sweet girl, the vestments (see the snazzy Pope above), the candles.

So, for us, we prepare. We rejoice. I love advent!
Gaudete!

>Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

>Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
She is Patroness of the Americas and protector of the unborn.
She is Mary, our Blessed Mother.

I grew up in the southwest, in Arizona and then California. The influence and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe was all around me. It was pervasive in the Catholic culture of the southwest but even in the broader culture of the region. Images of her abounded and her story was one told to even small children, perhaps because of the proximity to Mexico and the overlapping of the cultural influences. But it seems like I have always known her, to some degree.

However, only in later years as I became an adult, indeed almost middle aged, did I start paying attention. Maybe it was because I was having babies, or wanting to have babies, or wanting to adopt babies….and her prayers and protections suddenly seemed more needed, more urgent. Maybe it was because we had transplanted our family to the south and we felt like foreigners. We needed now to reclaim what was “ours” in a way. Both Coffeedoc and I grew up around Our Lady of Guadalupe and she was a comforting old friend. Her image and the southwestern, Mexican influence was part of the fabric that was woven into us.

At any rate, for Coffeedoc’s 40th birthday we took a trip, to see her image at her church. We went to Mexico City, to Tepayac Hill, to the Basilica. It was a humbling trip. Mexico City is beautiful but harsh. Going to the Basilica, passing the pilgrims who walked – some on their knees – to see her miraculous image made us fall silent. Seeing the families camped there, kids running around, but camped on the plaza surrounding the Basilica, made us wonder. The circus that surrounds this site, any major pilgrimage site (no matter the faith), made my head hurt and my eyes blur a bit; so much to take in, to see, hear, smell. The vendors selling everything from kitschy baubles to tiny tin milagros; it was overwhelming. The lines of people, just to squeeze in the door of the new basilica or through narrow doors of the old basilica, were daunting.

But, once we got inside the church we saw it. We saw the tilma. The tilma is a piece of cloth, made of plant fiber, that was worn as a sort of cape. It was a common article of clothing way back then. But the tilma of St. Juan Diego is a miracle we can still see now. This tilma carries the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and scientists haven’t been able to explain it yet. It is over 400 years old and should have simply crumbled with age, on the most basic level. It has survived to this day, despite all odds. Some might say it’s a legend, some might poo-poo this. But I was there, I saw it and I can’t figure it out. So, I choose to believe it.

I believe it was given to us as a sign of contradiction in this hard cold world. I believe that we still crave the mystery and the imagining of the impossible – that the impossible IS possible in this material world. I think that is one of the greatest things about faith: it is literally a belief in the impossible.

Because with God, all things are possible: even roses in the dead of winter and a tilma that carries an image that is somehow not made by man and survives for many hundreds of years; that prayers can be answered and that we have a Blessed Mother, to watch over us as a mother does, one who we can turn to for comfort and find the transforming grace found in prayer. So, I do love Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is a strong woman, not some fair wilting lily who leans against a window pining away. She is a strong, in the most enduring way there is: she is a mother.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

>Happy Birthday Booboo!

>

It’s my son’s birthday today!!He is 17.
Already!

There is so much to say about this young man, my boy.
I always get all misty on birthdays.
I won’t be able to write coherently, so that’s right…I feel a list coming on!

Booboo:
My biggest baby, literally.
No joke, he was 9 lbs, 9 oz.
I was in false labor for a month.
He is worth every ounce and every second of it.

Always a sleeper, always will be, still one to this day.
Slept through the night at four weeks, woohooo!
Still loves a good nap.
If it’s Sunday and you can’t find him, check the sofa.

He was an old man the day he was born.
Look at those big brown eyes, you can look way deep in there; old eyes.He loves a good soft cardigan, fuzzy slippers and warm shoes.
He has the most serious expression of any of my kids.
Even as a baby, people asked if he was always so somber.
It’s a fakeout.He is one of my funniest kids.
He can make me laugh til I cry.
Clever, dry as a bone humor.
He will catch you off guard and then give a small smirk.

He knows everything.
Because he is 17.
He found out that he knew everything at 16.
He is an adventurer.
An intrepid traveler.
He is a daredevil.
He is always up for a challenge or a dare.
Especially from his best bud, his big brother.
This is one of the reasons I am gray so young.
He too, is a musician.
Creative from the time he was a tot.
An inventor, of images, music, constraptions.
He has made the most amazing constructions, from anything and everything.
He would fill a room with his lego architectural imagining.
He had a (distressing) phase of turning even discards, trash, into wild constructions.
Something of a dreamer really.

Apple off the tree.
Pot-Kettle.
He doesn’t always like it, but in so many ways, so much like his father.
Except maybe overall just an even sweeter heart…(no offense coffeedoc! you have a sweet boy, you know it).
Extra smart, plus street smart in the sense of savvy, good common sense.
He can figure most anything out.
Except perhaps in the ways and minds of his sisters.

Faithful. Utter integrity.
His faith is important to him, but not in a showy way, rather in a deep water kind of way.
Plus, he knows his stuff, his faith.
His theological questions and understanding outstrips many I know.
It’s how his mind works.
He likes to come off as a curmudgeon.
But really, more a curmudgeon who loves practical jokes, adventure spy movies, wants to skydive (again, Dad…), and maybe even fly on a rocket to space.
He is a crazy hard worker, a financial whiz, but frugal (yay).
But the most important thing about my boy, this young man:
Is that he has the biggest heart under that teen shell that you’ll ever find.
We are so very proud of him.
We love him so.

Happy happy birthday Booboo!

>Feast of St. Juan Diego

>

It’s the feast day of Saint Juan Diego!

St. Juan Diego is the simple farmer that saw Our Lady of Guadalupe and followed her requests in simple faith. He walked fifteen miles to get to Mass, because of his love for the Eucharist and his faith. He was not a powerful man or an educated person. He was a peasant of the times, of no standing in his community. But his humble faith was true and sure and his love for the Blessed Mother helped him carry out her requests, with led to thousands of conversions of faith. He didn’t thoroughly understand the task that was being asked of him, but he was ready to do his best to try, out of faith, hope, and love.

I could learn something from him.
St. Juan Diego, pray for us!

>Feast of St. Nicholas

>

Painting by Paolo Veronese

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas!
You know, Santa Claus. St. Nick.

It’s Advent! What better feast can you find in this season of preparation?

The timing here is always perfect, more so for us this year.
Miss M has been asking the classic kid question of the season: “Is Santa Clause real?”
Sigh.
“Yes. Santa Clause is St. Nicholas and he is real.”
That usually suffices for now, but as my eldest said “Ah, it’s over Mom. She knows.”
Maybe. But not enough to run with it and declare it out loud, it’s one more year of the shiver of wonder, the fading “maybe.”
So we’ll take it and run with it too.

But even so, today is the feast of the real St. Nicholas and it’s a fun thing to remember and celebrate. The most common thing to do is to set out shoes and fill them with a few gifts, sort of an early stocking but with a shoe. I always intend to do this. I have never managed it. But it sounds like fun! This site has a lot more ideas too on how to mark this day.

Painting by Otto Van Veen

So my girl might be figuring out the logistics of the secular Santa fun. But the real St. Nicholas is still worth knowing and remembering today. His greatest gift was not the legendary gifts he left in the night but his staunch defense of the Church and her teachings and his faith. And that is all the more reason to celebrate this saint, especially at this time of year.

The legend of Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Jolly Old St Nick, is great fun and we play along too. But of course it is advent and we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the incarnation and it is in this that we meet with the message of St. Nicholas and the import this season. Buddybug’s professor made a great point about this in a lecture this week, go see, a little gift of something to ponder during these cold nights leading up to Christmas.

The St. Nicholas Society has a good set of prayers for this day, here. But I’ll leave this one below, a good one to try, maybe that plus setting out some shoes and sweets….

Good St Nicholas,

Help us prepare for the miracle of the coming of Jesus.
Help us not to be blind to the gifts of getting ready.
Help us be sincere in the greetings we send and receive, with love and prayer.

Kind St. Nicholas, protect us from fatigue, stress, overspending,
yet help us to be kind and generous of heart to all,
especially those who are alone, financially poor and fearful.


May our celebration of your feast lead others to see the true meaning of giving and receiving
and guide all people to
the greatest of all gifts, Jesus Christ, prince of peace and child of Mary,
Our Lord and only Savior.


Amen.

>Adoption and Counting

>One of the little known facets of adoption is the whole counting thing.
It is found with all types of adoption, domestic or international.
But the international counting gets a little more obsessive, I’d say.
There is counting everywhere you turn (and NO not only for those of us compulsive controlling types, we all do it, I took a poll).

You count the paperchase, each step in it gets its own countdown.
You count the months from dossier landing, anticipating a referral.
Once you get a referral you count the weeks until court, then the weeks to travel.
Then the days to travel count down.
Then you count the days you are in country.

Of course, if you are just a really laid back kind of person, or really detached in the spiritual holiness sense, then you don’t count. You just live in the present moment.
Good for you.

I’m not that holy.
I count.

I even count the hours ahead, eight, of the time each day….kind of checking in, figuring out what she’d be doing now.
Don’t judge me, I can’t help it.

But today, as I was out trying to make a dent in the elfin duties of the season, another sort of counting was rattling in my brain.
I was counting kids.

I am often asked how many kids I have.
This often happens when I show up with a towering cart at the market or when I am shopping for stocking stuffers and buy in gross.
Like today.

And so today I was thinking, what do I say?
How do you respond to that when you are in the process limbo?

To the observer, when I am buying in bulk or when I have all the kidletts -big and small – in tow, I am sure they must think the number looks something like this pic, below.
Yeah, two of those are officially mine. Front and center, the cute ones.
And I can go all philosophical on you and say, that pic is from World Youth Day in Cologne, they are all my children, as a mother in this world I care about them all.
But that would be too flip.
And nauseating.

But really, how do I answer that?
I could say I have seven children. Count the bouncy balls in my cart: seven.
But then am I short-shrifting “M”, so far away?
Will that somehow resonate across the globe?
Somehow, oddly it feels like it does.
But then again, the process can make you a tad hyper-sensitive too and I don’t want to overstate (for a change, but I will, I can’t help it).
And so, if I follow that, I say “I have eight children.”
Then it too, feels not quite there.

Because while on this side of the world we’ve been given the ok and it’s almost a formality that she is our daughter….on the other side, in Ethiopia, it is very much not a done deal.
And it could go wrong.
It’s happened.
Until the court says she is our daughter, can I claim her?
Can I?

I have in my heart and head and energy and effort. I’ve taken the hits of scorn and derision.
I have fought for her.
And I have prayed for her, and do, every day.

But until it’s official in her country and culture and legal process, can I boldly, baldly say, “I have eight children?”
I think so…
But then again, I almost always feel like I need to clarify – we are waiting for court, so we can go get her…bring her home.

Sigh.
So, I think the only way for me to do this is to count.
And I count eight.
Eight children.
I have eight children.
Because she is mine already, part of the fabric of me and us.
And if, God forbid, something unthinkable happens I will still have eight children, I will simply be torn from one.
And the controlling freak part of me wants to push through the counting, shorten it all, because I have claimed her and so it only makes sense that we go bring her to us.
Then she can claim us too.

And we can count, together. A new kind of counting, forward and infinite.

And I bought her a stocking today anyhow, just because. I counted.

>St. Francis Xavier: Feast Day!

>It’s the feast day of St. Francis Xavier!

Now, this is another of the saints I’m fond of, this Spanish saint is patron of African missions. He was also (in a timely link) a successful missionary in India for ten years, he loved it there. He eventually set out for the islands and China. He never made it to China, but he was an intrepid voyager, facing stormy seas and strange customs and countries. He relied on his faith and purpose, and he persevered. In doing this – persevering and respecting the foreign cultures he encountered – he not only followed God’s will for him, but pulled many to him and to God. He is considered “to have converted more people to Christianity than anyone else since St. Paul.” (see more, here).
For those homeschoolers out there, or anyone who wants an interesting, quick reading bio of this saint (and others), get Louis De Wohl’s book on St. Francis: Set All Afire.

You know I like to remember the feast days. With my daughter still in Africa, a saint that is a patron of African missions and was a courageous traveler is on top of my short list to ask for prayers: for her, for us to be together, to go get her, for all the traveling families on the road to bring their families together. That’s what St. Francis Xavier did too, just on a bigger scale.

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!

>Toddler Adoption: Adjustment, part VI

>VI.
That’s fancy schmancy for 6. Six.
Six months.

That’s how long I’ve been home now.
I can’t believe it!
Neither can my family.
In one way, it feels like forever.
In another, it’s still all so new!
So, well, organizing my thoughts can be tough, so instead I’ll make another list.
My impressions on six months:

My reasoning processes are getting much more sophisticated (hence, this post!).
I understand most words now, though not always the long sentences when mom is on a roll.
I am working on my words.
They keep asking me to repeat them though, sheesh, what am I? A baby?
I throw ’em a bone now and then though.
I’ll repeat a name or new word.
That’s always a crowd pleaser!
I must have almost ten words of my own though.
Most importantly, I’ve got: hi, up, football, mama, dada, dog, car, book, shoe, sock…
Oh the list goes on (or will).

Food, man, it’s good!
Love mom’s cooking.
We had this big dinner last week – all the food was amazing (except that meat stuff).

Love bedtime: night night.
That whole cuddling quiet thing: good stuff.
But not really sleeping so much.
Naps? Who needs ’em?

Toys? Toys, schmoiz.
Give me a ball!
Or a truck!
Those are the only toys that really count.
I think that perhaps a ping pong ball is the perfect specimen.
Love the music.
Seems like they have tons of music at this place.
Which is really great cause I love to dance.
And I’m starting to sing too, cause it just makes me happy.
I hope I sing as good as my dad or big brother though.
Not like mom.
But my big sis sounds pretty good too.

Want to see me make everyone laugh and then someone chase me?
Watch, this works every time.
Yeah, I strip.
I can get out of ANYTHING.
Yeah, they try to twist the overalls.
Doesn’t work. Makes me laugh at them.
Who needs a diaper anyhow?
Peeing on the floor seems to work great,
if I can do it fast enough before they grab me.
Hate those diapers, all of ’em, cloth, paper hate ’em all.

Stairs?
No biggie.
Got rid of those gates a while ago!
They just slowed me down anyhow.
Heck, I don’t even have to hold on going up OR down.
Yeah, I can do most anything, I know.

This brother thing?
Man, it’s the best.
The littler fast one or the really tall one – doesn’t matter, they are all great.
The middle one?
He’s a crackup. Great wrestler.
Crazy fun!And Mom?
Well, for some reason, I just really really need to be right with her.
No kidding, I don’t understand it myself.
But holding on to her leg, crying to be picked up, well, I just gotta!
And if I have to, I’ll scream for it, I can’t help it.
I just need her.
They say it’s separation anxiety and a natural regression, that it’s healthy.
So, no, I’m not worried.
I just need her.
She’s swell, even if she says her arms get tired and I’m so big, I don’t care.
So mostly, I’ve decided this family thing is pretty good stuff.
If it’s this good at six months, who knows how cool it will be six years from now!

Wow.
Shh, that’s my next word to spring on them.
I’ve been practicing.