Feast of the Holy Family

It’s still Christmas!

It’s the Feast of the Holy Family!

Michelangelo, Holy Family

Pope John Paul II – Prayer from Angelus Message for the Feast of the Holy Family 2004

“May the Holy Family, who had to overcome many painful trials, watch over all the families in the world, especially those who are experiencing difficult situations. May the Holy Family also help men and women of culture and political leaders so that they may defend the institution of the family, based on marriage, and so that they may sustain the family as it confronts the grave challenges of the modern age!

 

 

 

The Holy Innocents

I hate this memorial.  I know it, as a Catholic, I pray it and ponder it.

It’s a hard kind of Hallelujah, knowing that once again, and then, our hard cold world is willing to steal innocent lives….all too often with some twisted evil agenda or just plain broken minds and souls.  Then. Now.  It’s too close to us, once again, this year.

But as I pray through this hard solemn day in the feasting of the octave of Christmas, I take blind faith and cold comfort in the knowledge that these kids – all the kids from way back to these first innocent babes to the shocking ones this month – ARE INNOCENTS.  And in our faith, we are taught that they are martyrs and immediately received into the joyful comfort and bliss and understanding of their role in the unfolding of creation and our world.

So, today I weep, again, for these babies.  I don’t begin to understand. I weep for the the hard extraction of holiness from our hell on earth.  And I cry out to find the goodness in such unspeakable hard.  But I trust, I trust in the promise of my  faith, and the grace that fills the void.  And, just as with the first innocents…..we remember these.

Feast of St Stephen

It’s still Christmas!

It’s the feast of St Stephan!

by Pope John Paul II: Angelus Message: Vatican, December 31, 2003

Giorgio Vasari, Stoning of St Stephen

1. Today, in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, we are celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church. He is also known as the “Protomartyr” because he was the first disciple of Christ to pour out his blood for him. Stephen was stoned to death because of false accusations similar to those levelled at Jesus himself and, like the Master, he died forgiving those who killed him.

2. The Church calls the day of martyrdom a dies natalis (birthday). Indeed, by virtue of Christ’s death and Resurrection, the death of the martyr isa birth in Heaven. This is why it is so meaningful to celebrate the First Martyr the day after Christmas: Jesus who was born in Bethlehem gave his life for us so that we too, reborn “from on high” through faith and Baptism, might be willing to give up our own lives for love of our brothers and sisters.

Today I would especially like to remember the Christian communities that are suffering persecution and all the faithful who suffer for the faith. May the Lord give them the strength to persevere and the ability to love even those who cause their suffering.

3. May Mary, Mother and disciple of her Son Jesus, accompany all Christians on their journey, from the baptismal font to the hour of their death. May she, Queen of the Martyrs, help us too to be “martyrs”, that is, witnesses on every occasion to the love of Christ whom we contemplate in these days as a Child in the crib.

Epiphany!

It’s the Feast of Epiphany! I love this one!

The Star of Bethleham by Burne-Jones

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.” Matthew 2: 1-12

"Halt of the Three Wise Men" by LaFarge

Now, there is much to comment on about Epiphany….between the eastern and western traditions, the customs, folklore, liturgy, prayers, food (cake!) and so on.

But here is what I think about on Epiphany:  Men came from afar.  Far.  Like traveled and schlepped and persevered.  Following the glow of that star, with wonder and halting trust and maybe some arguing about the wisdom of such a journey (but hey, maybe I’m just projecting my own mode here…it could be…). But, for me, one of the nuggets is that they, quite literally, stepped out in faith.  Followed, but a dim light (sure it’s a big ol star and all, but heck, it was DARK and it was far)….and they kept on taking the next step.  They endured the journey.  Persevered.  They followed.  They followed not because they KNEW for sure what was up or where they were going.  They followed in faith.  And, they were rewarded with seeing Christ  himself.  And a baby! Which is always an automatic grin, right there, but Christ and the Holy Family?  Well, that had to just be a marvel and an awestruck wondrous smile.  They could see touch smell stand in his presence.  And I suspect, if we could but ask them, they would say that it was worth it.  Totally.

Today on this feast, that’s what I’m holding onto.  Following the light, hoping to stand in the presence and  joy of that same light when I finally get there.  In the meantime, following with hopeful perseverance.  That’s my epiphany, today.

Happy Feast Day!  Rejoice!

Happy Merry Christmas Birthday Beauty!

Merry Christmas to all and an extra special Happy Merry Christmas Birthday to my sweet Sarahbird!

Halloween this year, silly last minute costume grab

Today is her birthday…her 13th birthday!

Yeah, it’s a biggie!

Because, now, she is officially a teen. Ok Ok, she’s been kinda sliding into this teen stuff for, oh, at least a year or so now.  I mean, you know, the moods, the bling, the nails, the eye rolls, the music, the giggled comments with her friends and sister, the fussing over shoes.  She’s the whole little preteen teen package.  Whoa, no more PREteen.  Now, it’s all teen, all the time.

But, you know, with that teen-hood, comes wider eyes and her heart is growing too.  Yes, some more rocky times, and bigger worries, of course for the parental types (be kind to us sweet Sarah!).  But also, with teen years comes those times for more heart to heart talks and understanding.  Some of the best stuff comes in the teen years too, it’s just easy to overlook it.  I promise you, honey, that one of my bday gifts to you is I will try to NOT overlook the good.

Anyhow, enough musing, today, this Christmas day when we are brought the greatest of gifts – once again I am reminded of one of our greatest gifts: our Sarahbird.  I know you were born on THIS day for a reason  honey: so we would never ever forget that you came swaddled in soft gift wrap, a living jewel.

  1. Your smile, your REAL one, can light up a room.
  2. You are shy at times,
  3. but you are also an extroverted firecracker,
  4. and, best of all, quick to say hello and befriend the new kid.
  5. You love music,
  6. and anything flashy,
  7. and nail polish, and fashion,
  8. and boots, oh…the boots you crave….oy!
  9. But you still are just young enough to still have fun w/ sweet toys, I love that.
  10. You are doing great in school, and that fortitude is one of your great gifts.
  11. You ARE a little bossy at times, ahem, like a teen girl, I suppose.
  12. You are fierce on the basketball court, a great fearless defense player, fun to watch.
  13. And you are a key part of this family – we love you so.
  14. This rock wall was scary but you did it!

We are so proud of you and we hope all your bday wishes come true.  You are our beautiful sweet Sarahbird.  We love you so and hope today is special and shiny and full of bling that makes your face light up with happiness.

Happy 13th Birthday Sweet Sarah, we are so proud of you and we  love  you!

Finding Silence in the Chaos

So, it’s the night before Christmas; only a few hours of it left. Finally, a small silence is descending upon the house. Not a complete silence, no, never. But, for the next, oh, HOUR, it’s as quiet as it’s been in weeks. {Although, realistically, by the time I post, that hour will be GONE baby GONE.}

The small boys have finally fallen to sleep; though I have to wake them in an hour to get to midnight Mass. Even so, I’ll take it. Two of the girls have fallen into drowsy snooze, another is doing hair and the eldest is quietly playing piano. Coffeedoc is resting a bit, chilling before the last big push of Advent: again, that beautiful rigorous glorious midnight Mass. Granpa G is downstairs, snoozing no doubt. Booboo, well, he’s either still out sitting with his sweet girlfriend or he’s gone down to play some music himself. I have 20 minutes before I need to change, myself, and then launch the troops.

Amidst all this hustle and bustle…oh, who am I kidding, amidst the bedlam and wild careening boys and snapping moody girls and the hoisting and toting and then clanging and speeding of time and bodies and lists and on and on…I’ve found myself wishing for that silence of Advent. Wondering where it went and how to find it. I’ve been craving that, but simply yearning for ANY kind of silence, inner, outer, body, mind, soul. I have to admit, I’ve despaired a bit, here and there, of finding it this season.

But as we wrap up Advent, I am rethinking that despair of missing it somehow. I’ve changed my mind a bit. I think that I have inadvertantly found that deep, that silent part of Advent. Over the past few days, this past week especially, the conversations I’ve had with good friends, my kids, my dear Tom, have struck me. It took me some stewing over it to parse out the why of it. But, what I’ve found in the moods and tears and needs that I’ve listened to, see, felt, held, soothed, paced about, vented about, jangled through my own self, prayed about…is that it’s in there still; that deep after all.

This is a kind of tough transitional Christmas here in our house due to big changes; to Chris being absent. Thus, the whole traditional everything….isn’t. It’s hard to polish up a tradition when one big piece of it is missing. It’s easy to hang onto what it WAS and what it seems it should/must be. But, the very challenging trick is to accept that it’s morphing into something slightly new, slightly different, yet essentially the same. And this year, well, this year there is some twinge of sadness over that. Hard to do. And it seems that Advent isn’t supposed to be about the blues or grief or fussing or worry or hating change; at the same time it all seems too loud, too busy, too jangly, too much, and somehow so very much not enough.

But that’s it! Right there. That’s the whole of it, in a way, isn’t it?

Advent isn’t Christmas. Not yet.

Advent is that whole wait and prep for Christmas. It’s that wait for a messiah. To save us/me. And so it only makes sense to my old brain that if that is so, then yeah, Advent might be a boatload of work and trying to make mountains move and fail and fuss and kvetch and whinge on and on and worry and just be out of sorts. I mean, the Virgin Mary had to ride a donkey into Bethlehem as she was beginning labor! Talk about having a hard time maintaining the cheerful can-do attitude! Ya think she wasn’t sad and fretting and just wanted to get off the road and settle? Um, I betcha. Kinda like Advent. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to recognize that our lives (ok, me, mine) here are not, cannot be, just so glitzy blingy perfect in every way no matter how many bows we stick on them and no matter how many hours sitting in traffic we log. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to see it, live it, do the physical bodily weary work of it so that we can cry out with joy when God descends to JOIN us and come and live with us….to save us from our selves. Maybe one of the key parts of Advent is really the process of it. Even in the midst of the wrapping the cutting the taping the labels the cookies the dishes the finding jackets and gloves and retying shoes…we actually, by doing the job in front of us, are preparing our hearts to rejoice, finally, fully, for real, at the birth of a savior.

Well, I guess that maybe that under all those tasks and sighs and clanging and banging….there is a deep work that is happening. And it’s silent, so easy to overlook. But, I really think it’s there. I’m counting on it.

And now, I am going to go dress for Mass, wake my kids, nudge them as they grump through the dressing and driving, smile at Tom when they fall asleep in the pew and then bring them back home and tuck them in bed. Because, I think I’ve found the silence I was craving. It was there all the time. Deep and still under it all. Which means I’m almost ready to sing. Merry Christmas…almost……

Almost, Almost…Hurry…

It’s almost here!  I think I’ve put this up, last year or before, but this is my soundtrack for today and tomorrow, so I’m loading it here too.

Knot those bows, ice those cookies, drink the nog or grog…..Christmas is almost, almost here!

Tannenbaum Tigger Express!

So, last night we decorated the tree.  And let me go on the record: Jon, and sweet Leslie, did an awesome job of finding and cutting and hauling that tree home! It’s a beauty, perfect!

But first, before we decorated (heck just before dinner, because I’m a genius like that), just to ramp up the crazy anticipation of it all, I made gingersnaps and let the kids decorate to their messy hearts content with white icing.  While they were cooking Gabe followed me around the house, literally, asking me at least 45 times, “When are the cookies going to be done? Are they ready now?”  So we set the stage with messy but yummy white snowflake, {snowdrift} ginger snaps .

No, we can't keep shirts on him, I don't know why.

The tree part? Well, it was the fastest, wildest, LOUDEST, trimming of any tree anywhere, ever.  It had to have been, I think there must be  a trophy for that somewhere.  Why, you ask? Well….you might guess that it was due to the evening hour.  You might guess it was due to pressing social engagements for the big kids.  

You might guess that it was because we are kind of expert at the process by now.  You’d be right, to a point, on all of those tries.  But, I will say that our tree trimming was the wildest ever due almost exclusively to the completely over the top wild excited crazy loud grabbing jumping frenzy that overcame little Gabey.  

It was a peak four-almost-five-year-old moment of Christmas anticipation/insanity and “It‘s so exciting I can’t contain myself for even a second” event.  So, while we did have Christmas carols playing to set the stage…really the soundtrack of the event was more like “Gabe! Wait! Don’t grab! Sssh, yes, you’re next.  No that one is Jon’s, THIS one is for you. Yes!  Tigger is  yours, hang him up, find a spot!” And while Tigger wasn’t officially his, before…well, I think that particular little old ornament MUST be now.  Because last night, our Gabey, he WAS Tigger!   

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fussing about it.  I think if we had had a slow really mindful tree trimming I might have start to leak a bit.  Pulling out those kid ornaments with the faces from years ago…you know those ones…

…the best ones….well, I had to pass the ones of our Chris over quickly to a big kid.  Or else I would’a started blinking fast.  

And one moment time started to slow, just a little tiny bit.  I handed a picture one of him to Hannah and said, “Hang this one more toward the back or side,” (because I had already had one hung in front of him and I didn’t want to overload in front) Well, she stopped and said, “What? No!“, she might have stomped her foot even, I don’t know.  But she marched over and said, “I won’t, it goes here.” And she hung that goofy ornament with his sweet face right up high center front.  

Touchy bits, this  year, here and there.  We all feel it this year, but only maybe more when it slows a bit or on those really peak tradition moments in this clan.  

Yeah, blinking fast here...aw

So, this year, Gabey’s wildness was a pure gift.  A loud gift, to be sure.  But, even so, a grace I’d say.  

Our gift of Tigger, in  his own wild bouncy bouncy loud self.  “Whoo-hoo-hoo!”

O Tannenbaum!

Christmas is SO exciting when  you’re almost five.  

Christmas strategies

This is just what we look like round here.....

Ok, so this is a quickie post, dashed off before I rush out to a therapist appointment for one of the kiddles.  This is, in a way, my public to-do list and a virtual accountability check for me.  Because,  you see, it’s really – oh boy is it  – Christmas break now.  Which means that all the kids are off of school and off of schedule.  Which means, as you moms with kids with different needs know, that things are off kilter in a very very big way.  And, you could say, as I have before, “Oh, well then, just make a new schedule!”  Um, yeah.  Kinda hard to do.  I mean, there is a ROUGH schedule to the days: we wake, we have puppy duties, we have essential  household tasks….but I have found that if I impose an “all new” holiday schedule onto the kids over break then we still have protest…because that is ‘change’.  And change is it’s own trigger too.  So, in essence, I’m burned, either way.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place, if you will.

So, to that end, I’m strategizing online:

  • I think I need to have a softly managed newer schedule sort of overlaid onto the days.  I’ve already gone over today in detail with Marta, suggesting the way it will play out, in blocks of hours.
  • Each day needs a highlight/goal activity: tonight is decorating the tree as a family, tomorrow will be…..cookies? I don’t know yet, but I”m thinking on it….
  • Each day needs a walk with at least a few of the kids, Marta, Little Man, the puppy…maybe all the kids (tho a number of the kids need running for conditioning for basketball so that might be on tap too. But them, not me, my running days are done)
  • Reading aloud each day? Maybe.  The small boys and the new teens love it.  Marta gets overwhelmed and frustrated, and retreats to her room…so not sure.
  • Setting up a craft a couple of days this week? Suggestions? Ones that I don’t have to be involved in, more kid level/ability…because, while I was an art major, I hate crafts…..because I’m a total mom fail in that realm.  I admit it. I own it. Don’t judge me.
  • Shopping for Christmas.  This is hugely important, they kids need to gift to each other.  But Dad or Big Kids need to take them because I will want to commit Hari Kari if I do it.  Just saying.

Ok, so that’s my disorganized brainstorm thoughts this morning.  You can see I need help.  If you have any great suggestions, let me know, especially you moms of kids who live/die by the rigidity of their need for schedules and organized time, and/or have trauma/need issues.  I”m all ears and as you can see, just pedaling as fast as I can to figure it out.  And, clearly, not there yet .  Anyone???

And, as you’ve noticed, blogging is and will be sporadic, due to crazy busy household insanity with the holidays our own little Norman Rockwell Christmas Shangri-la.

Finding Buddy

Ok, I’m trying.  But it’s a toughie this year; more so than others.  But I’m trying…. It’s a deliberate decision; an intentional choice.  

Let me clarify: this season of Advent and Christmas is being a bit challenging on finding and holding my “christmas cheer.”  By which I mean, we are overrun with hard this year, in particular: we’ve got RAD behavior and  meltdowns flying all over, we’ve got final exams taking their very ugly snipy gripey pressured toll, we’ve got the keenly felt absence of the eldest, we’ve got a little of the same biz and financial pressures that so many – oh, all of America, the world over even – are feeling, we’ve got some kids not very well regulated with their issues and behaviors…the list goes on.  And that list, that “not nice list” that I just typed out…well, it’s been kind of crushing my spirit.  Which means, it’s been kinda crushing the warm glow of this Advent season as well ’round here.  

So,  yesterday I made the choice.  I decided to lock Scrooge away; to close the door on him, turn the key and walk away.  I don’t wanna be Scrooge.  I don’t like him.  I don’t like me, as him.  So, I decided that I didn’t need to face any more ghosts or shades of what it coulda/shoulda be or has been….and sulk about it.  

From Scrooge, Classic, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

 I decided that blues or no, RAD or adhd, bored or happy kids, we still were gonna “do” Christmas.  I owe it to the kids still here, the little ones, the big ones, the grownups even.  We owe it to each other…to embrace this season.  Sure, there are hard things; some of those RAD explosions are breathtaking and not in a good way.  But, none of it is gonna be better with wallowing in the hard and so we are gonna move through it, dragging our brightly colored lights and tinsel right through the meltdowns and the anxiety and the moods.  I will do what I can to sit and calm the kid(s) who need it. I will do what I can to check in with each kiddle daily.  I will do what I can to offset anxiety about changing schedules (new daily schedules posted, endless rechecking and confirming as requested).  I will do what I can to BE PRESENT.  But I’m gonna stop waiting for it to settle or be perfect.  Because it’s not gonna be.  This Christmas and Advent is different.  It’s a challenge in it’s own unique way, this year.  

So, I’m gonna “fake it til we make it.”  Or go down trying.  Maybe it will distract the ones who need it.  Maybe it will jump start those festive elfin feelings…in me, heck, maybe even the kids and husband.  The dog is looking more chipper already, I swear!  So, to that end, yesterday I went and gathered decorative sorts of things and I put them up….started a few new traditions even, maybe….and made the house start to look like this is a special season, set apart.  {And, yeah I know, messy kitchen and not much to see, but I TOLD you I was starting small, ok? Those snowflakes are small but tacky silly fun dangling there, made the kids say “ooooh!” Hence, worth it; don’t judge me.}

silly snowflakes, just for fun and sparkly magic

I might have even brought in a sprinkle of magic dust to make the kids go “Oh!”  Ok, I did, and  it made me very happy to see their faces and hear it. It did.  It seemed to work; at least for the evening.  

Now, we still have another day of finals to get through.  But then my college  boy is traveling over the river and through the woods. He will be arriving home this weekend, hopefully with a big ol’ tree in tow (or on roof).  Just that, right there, is gonna add a fair lot of Christmas joy around here too.    

simple but a far site better than totally bare like before

By golly, by elf……Christmas approaches.  It’s a season of magic.  We may or may not be as giddy as some years…but we are gonna try.  Forget Scrooge.  We are channeling Buddy.  

I’m feeling a tiny glimmer more sparkly already.  

Checking it twice….stoves!

Its’ the feast of St. Nicholas!
And, as I’m working on my own elfin to do list, in the spirit of the real St Nicholas, I want to put this on the top of our Christmas list.  The real St Nicholas was known to throw small bags of gold over the walls of some of the poor in his village; not the standard help mode of the time….

A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man’s house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the lasttime the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude

So, in light of the spirit behind that…by which I mean, doing what works to help families – because we all need it from time to time….I offer this.  This is what I want for Christmas.  I want a new stove.  I don’t want the biggest Viking house beautiful stove or cooktop. I want this stove.  Because it will be a way to make a home more beautiful, and a family do better, this Christmas.  Go, see.  Put a stove on your list!  Put ten!  This present will last longer, taste better, and bring more joy than any other gizmo that is topping the charts.  Step into the spirit of Father Christmas today…..
The Adventure Project Holiday Stove Campaign from The Adventure Project on Vimeo.
 
All I want for Christmas is…a stove or two or ten!”  
Think about THAT as you’re warming up your cocoa! “

The advent of Advent

Advent begins tomorrow!

It feels early this year, but I suppose that can’t be.  Once again, it’s sorta snuck up on me and I’m feeling all behind before I even begin.  Yikes.  So, to that end, today I’m going to mindfully try to prep my interior self to accept my inevitable winding sloppy stumble through this season of Advent.  By which I mean, I already KNOW I’m not gonna be as prepped as I hoped to be.  I do NOT have the christmas list finished, heck, it’s not even begun…I”m still in a minor denial of it and a squinting gaze of “Hmmm, how best to tackle this, this year?”   This year is a bit untethered; there are changes this year inside and out.  We are in the midst of a noticeable, keenly observed, evolution (Which is to say that we all are in the midst of the unmarked evolution, all the time, right? But this  year, I’m seeing  feeling marking it).

So, here’s what I know:  The big: in our Church we go to new, more precise, liturgical phrasing and a revamp of the missal, the liturgy of the Mass in order to better direct our hearts souls and prayer vertically – toward the holy, the divine.  It will increase our awareness of the sacred, right here, right now, and beyond. How exciting is that?  I’m sure a whole ‘nother post to come on that one, it’s that big.

The other big: my eldest is having his first Christmas with his “new family:” his Dominican family.  And while I might leak a tear here and there, and try to push (with fluctuating success) the blues that threaten to buffet me from missing him….I want him to have a really happy holiday season and just relish his new traditions.  I want him to savor the richness and goodness in these beautiful new traditions, to laugh at the quirks of his new family/companions, and to really enjoy and appreciate these holidays.  I think he did for Thanksgiving, I heard it in his voice and it made me very happy and answered my simple but fervent prayer of the day.  I want only the same for him for Christmas and Advent…and that’s the same as I claimed for myself when I started out on my own and began my own, now much loved, holiday traditions.

The smaller, but also so important: I want to accept my inevitable inability to “do it all” and not let that tank my holiday happy before it even settles in.  I want to TRY to get most of it sort of figured out and/or taken care of this coming week (Bwah ha ha ha! – hey a gal can dream!) and then I want to slow down (My friend Zoe, she inspires me).  I want to read and be PRESENT and just soak in the richness of this season.  I fail every year.  But, hope springs eternal and I’m hoping, once again.

So the stuff:

  • I will link if I can to the UCSSB Advent Calendar, daily, because it’s a goodie and  has other cool links to follow too.
  •  You know that there will be a glut of Catholic stuff, great saint feasts this month and just because golly, it’s Advent and that’s what it’s all about, right?  That’s why this season is so great!
  • I have some adoption updates and managing through the season, the landmines, kind of thoughts rattling around in my head.
  • I have life in general posts, and lets not forget this month/season begins the bithday-palooza calendar in my house, so you’ll be seeing a bunch of bday posts.
  • I have to put up wreaths, but not too soon as we keep them up til Candlemass
  • Need to help Coffeedoc find a fir tree to cut that is LESS than three hours drive away, as the kids are in mutiny regarding the schlep drive….possibly impossible
  • Need to get our Advent candles ready – done (hooray, a first!)

So you see, I have a lot of stuff rattling around in my head.  And instead of waiting to come up with profound or pithy posts, I think the  only way for me to simply and mindfully wend my way through this season is, oddly enough, to sort it out through typing and posting.  Only then, perhaps will I be able to declutter my brain and find the silence and slow there too.  So, thanks in advance for enduring if you will.

last year's school Christmas play

It’s the advent of Advent.  I love this season, not for the surface, but for the deep.   Exciting times ahead!

Last year.

>Turn-keys: Christmas Edition

>

The christmas key {find it here}, who knew? Cool huh?

So, it’s still Christmas.  Which means we are still celebrating, but we are still also working on sidestepping triggers and trying to craft a happy successful holiday.  Today many of my kids head back to school (just over half of them) and I’m reviewing our holiday break.
So I think it’s time for an updated turn key post – holiday style.
For another link in a similar vein, go here, to the always wonderful and insightful Thankful Mom.  She inspires me always, and is a good online buddy.  I know we’d chat for days over coffee if only we lived closer!

Anyhow, so this Christmas we had a much better holiday than last year.  Which kind of blows my mind.  Because last  year was so very hard.  It was full of drama and trauma drama triggers and grief and rage and crying and all such things.  We should have expected it, I suppose.  But somehow, even as you are treading water in the new deep end of parenting with kids who have special needs and hard backgrounds…you (or I did) think that the  “magic of Christmas” will carry you through.  Um, not so much.  Instead, what happens is your discombobulated, hypervigilant, disregulated child(ren) only become more so.

All that is to say, this year, we went searching and thinking in advance for some keys to avoid some of those pitfalls.  We are getting slowly smarter, in that we don’t expect hopes and wishes to carry us over bumpy ground.  This year we opened up our toolboxes and tried to think in advance.  We lowered our expectations and prayed like mad.  And guess what? We have had a much more successful Christmas holiday! I’m not saying it was perfect, because I’m not crazy or stupid.  But I’m saying, it was better.  I’m saying that we even had some real progress, for which I am terribly grateful.  We all are.  I’m saying, Christmas was full of some subtle but very big gifts.

There were a few keys, turn-keys if you will, to the progress.
One of the keys is a given, it is time.  Simply put, she has been home now 17 months and she has one Christmas under her belt.  It was not all new.  That is huge.  For a hypervigilant kid, to know precisely what is going to happen, when and how is absolutely critical.  It pains me to think how hard last year was for her, knowing her intense need for routine and fear of change.  This year, however, we had something to build on, and that allowed her to relax somewhat and even enjoy bits of the holiday that repeated from last year.  This year she had ornaments that were repeats from last year, and it tickled her to put each of them on the tree….just like the other kids.

Another holiday key was again the scheduling in advance.  We laid out the schedule in advance, the days were clearly marked and spelled out, so she knew exactly what to expect and when.  We had to go over it again and again, but that is standard and so we did.  It helped.  And we piggybacked it on the key of time, reminding her that we did it this way, the same, last year.

We did a lot of direct assignment of tasks.  Giving her tasks that contributed and helped her feel both part of the preparation and also productive.  Sitting around bored is a killer.  Tasks are good, if well considered.

We did a lot of checking in.  Checking in with her as the day(s) went on, with a word of encouragement or praise and a quick hug and smile with connected eyes.  Such simple things, so easy to forget and so critical to the ongoing mood regulation.

Perhaps the biggest best key this year was Christmas specific: gifts.  She got to give every one in the family a gift.  Sounds like an “of course, doh” kind of thing, right?
Not at all.
Stupidly, last year we were all just so overwhelmed by all the changes that we kind of gave a pass to the kids on giving gifts to each other, individually.
I mean, when you have eight kids, that adds up to a huge logistical nightmare of trekking to stores and buying and wrapping and sorting and oh my goodness I start to swoon just typing about it…….
In fact, this year I advocated with my husband for the large-family classic mode of drawing a name between the sibs, one name/one present.  He wisely enough thought about it and said, “No, I think they should all give gifts to each other.”  At which point I promptly got a massive migraine.  Then he (again, wisely…he may be many things, but he’s not stupid) said, “And I’ll take them, I’ll be in charge of it.”  At which point I promptly gave him a big smooch.
Anyhow, being able to go and pick out a small gift for each member of the family…wrap it, put it under the tree, and then watch it being opened…was just a hugely important thing to her.  No surprise I suppose, it is the joy of giving.  And it enabled her to really participate in Christmas, for the first time in a way that she understood.

So this year, Marta got to get presents but also give them.  And that, perhaps, was the greatest turn-key under our tree this year.  It was the one all fancy, above, that helped us all have a much more relaxed and happy Christmas.  It was a tool and a key, yes, but even more so, it was a gift to us all – literally and figuratively.  It was a key to healing, which is the greatest gift, once again, that any of us can be given.
Attachment only comes, truly, with time and healing and I will gather any and every key I can find to unlock it and bring it closer.  Those keys, they are gifts of gold to me.  They are gifts of family.

>Holy Family!

>



Michelangelo, “The Holy Family”

What perfect timing, of course!
I love this feast, its a reminder to me that even Christ got to, had to, live in a family.  
Think about that one…..
Now his family was all holy and everything, true…but even so, it’s a great example.  Heck, we have sports stars that we look up to and try to be as good as they are (for the most part, at least when we are talking about their skills of endurance and perseverance and practice, right?).  So, that’s one of the great things about the saints and feast days, they are like the posters kids put up in bedrooms…heroes to emulate, gaze at and wonder and dream.  
So today I have put up the gorgeous  painting by Michelangelo, I got to see it in person this summer at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  Just wow!  This is the heroic icon of family.  The holy family, I could just look at it all day long.  
But the really cool part about all of this, is that WE are called to be like them.  Really.  We are called to be, in our own little (or big) families, the domestic church.  Which is just the coolest thing to me.  We are supposed to model that love that faithfulness that care and keeping of each other…because that’s what families do.  It can take different forms for the different needs and concerns of each family, of course.  But the basics remain.  We care for each other to our best ability, because we are family.  Just like the Holy Family did.  If we shoot for that, we are on the right track.  Which is helpful to remember as I correct my fast growing (in size and temper) son and he stomps up the stairs and shouts that I am “despicable.”  {Yes, he’s got a heck of a temper, but his vocabulary is impressive!}
So as we/I all recover from the excess and crazies of Christmas day {and hand out ‘write-offs’ to the kids who are having fall apart syndrome from too much muchness yesterday}, and review in our mind the sweetnesses of this holiday {sleeping toddlers breathing against your neck at midnight Mass} and the irritants {maybe even Jesus had an annoying distant uncle made Mary roll her eyes at the dinner table}….I need to keep this in mind:
Family. 
It’s not just something we endure or that imposes chores….
it’s what our deepest hearts long for.  
Because it’s holy.
From Evening Prayer for this day:
Father, help us to live as the holy family,
united in respect and love.  
Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, forever and ever. 
Amen.

>Merry Christmas Birthday Girl!!

>

Merry Christmas to all, but most especially to my best present ever: 
My Sarahbird!!

It’s her birthday once again, she is twelve now!

And I think we are finally coming to terms with the jiving up of the Christmas fun and the birthday fun.
We’ve tried many many things over the years, variations and tweaks.  But what works best is what has become solid tradition: Christmas in the morning, Bday after noon.  And before you get all “aw, gee” about it all, lets look at this clearly:
My Sweet Sarah has the biggest birthday of the year.
It has a month of buildup leading up to it.
The entire world celebrates alongside her; because she has the best most awesome birthday companion possible: Christ himself!
Christmas babies are inherently special, they just are. 
She gets the best breakfast, homemade cinnamon rolls, every year.
She will never have school or work on her birthday.
And she gets the yum of the fancypoo Christmas dinner on the eve of her bday and then gets her pick of dinner and desert for Christmas day.  Even if she chooses hot dogs (and she has)!

 So, we think having a Christmas birthday is pretty special; just like her.
Because my sweet Sarah bird is twelve.
She was my tiniest baby, hands down, the tiniest baby I had ever held.
 I might have told you that before, I still can’t get over it!

She is still petite and always will be.
That frustrates her sometimes, but it suits her perfectly.
Except perhaps when she is guarding in basketball.
Which is probably why she does such a fierce trash talking job of it!

She is a girly girl and probably always will be.
She loves ruffles and sparkles and bling…
and dolls and ponies and kittens…
but not wild jumping dachshund puppies.

She loves to be social and is making many friends at her school.
But  her best friend for ever and ever will always be her sister Em.
They shared a basket, they shared bottles (I know, gross, but try it w/ virtual twins, try keeping them always separate, I double dog dare you), they shared clothes, toys, snacks, baths, beds, and still share a room.
They are just each others best buddy.
Except when they aren’t, because they are preteen girls and that explains it all!

Sarah is creative and loves to draw and craft and cut and design.
Which usually makes quite a mess.
Which makes her mom crazy.
Because Sarah is not and  may never be, a natural cleaner or tidier.
Though she can do a great job when motivated.

Storms and spiders scare her.
As do large dogs, and jumpy puppies.
She loves sugary foods beyond anything else to eat.
And has a knack for figuring out how to score them.

Sarah can be prickly, and moody.
But deep down, she is a sweet not so little (12 now!) girl who just wants to be liked, fit in, and have fun. 
Just like most twelve  year old girls.
Especially the have fun, preferably a party, part. 

So today we will hang the streamers and cut the cake.
We will open (more!) presents and we will sing the birthday song loudly.

And we will hug this special girl tight and tell her:
“Happy Happy Birthday Sweet SarahBird!”

“We love you so much!”
 “We hope all your bday wishes come true!”

 

>Merry Eve of Christmas for a Mom!

>Well, we still have much of this holiday to come…
but this Christmas eve, this mom/me just got what might be my best Christmas present, below:

That note?  It is a huge giant step forward for my daughter, my newest one from hard places.
Seems like a typical kid love note.
Nope.
Tomorrow might be hard again.  I hope not.
But even so, I’m marking this.
Because this is big and tonight she was happy enough to write this and hand it to me with a huge grin, ducking her head as she came to hug and kiss me.
It might as well be gold.

It’s good.
It’s progress.
Which is, of course, the best present of all to us both.
Brought, of course, by a “little” child…..and I’ve been given the eyes to see and this is Christmas Joy.

Merry Christmas Eve!

>Pondering the season: Music

>I have much pondering in my  heart this season.
But now and again, I hear this song on the radio and it pulls me from the core.
This song is Christmas and Advent for me; especially when it is played on our piano in the living room by my eldest, Chris.

Music is so evocative, especially in this rich season.
This one brings back memories of the Snoopy Christmas Special as a kid {yes, I did just date myself again, and yes we did wait ALL YEAR to see those specials}.
But it also conjures up many memories of my family here in our home over these years.
Now I know what Christmas songs my kids, especially Little Man, like (because he sings it loud and often…and lets just say, I’ll let you guess which one is top o’ the charts: involving jingles and a fat man smelling).
What Christmas songs are “IT” for you?

>Tis the season….enjoy the beat!

>It’s the middle of Hanukkah, of course.

And it’s a beautiful season in and of itself – the traditional festival of the miracle of candle oil by our big brothers in matters of religion, the Jewish Faith. {By this I mean that of course our Catholic faith is derived out of the Jewish faith, they are truly our big brothers and so many of our rituals and customs have origins in theirs. This is why so many of those traditions call to us, to me, and pull at us deeply.  They call to our selves.}

Anyhow, this is a fun video, you might have seen it already but it’s perfect for Hanukkah.  It’s about the Maccabee’s of course, one of the great stories in the bible and this is a fun reminder of the richness of the season.

Enjoy! Happy Hanukkah!

{h/t to Julie of Happy Catholic!}

>Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

>

Happy New Year!

Sounds simple, a no brainer right?
Doh….Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Yup. We’re n the midst of the whole Christmas season, surrounded by nativity scenes, Mary pregnant on the donkey, Baby Jesus in the manger….that’s the quintessential “mom” scene.
This IS one of the uber Catholic solemnities….one of the ones that cause some division.  But in my humble opinion, that division is not justified; it’s a tempest in a teapot (to use momspeak).  So, why the big deal…”Mary, Mother of God?”

Well that term took some theological argument discussion.  Ages ago, literally.  Way, way, before the “Big split (into the whole Protestant/Catholic deal).” Even way before any real divide between Eastern and Western Christianity.   Because it speaks to Jesus and his Divinity and while it seems obvious, it wasn’t so much…and you know, folks like things really pinned down officially and academically.  Hence, long ago – 431 AD – they even held a council of the bishops of the world, those who had received the faith, entrusted to them, on down in succession from the Apostles, to officially pin this all down.  Because someone was teaching that Jesus wasn’t divine from the moment of his conception or even birth, but taught that he was elevated to divinity later.   Was Jesus divine from the moment of his conception, or was he born only human?  Did Mary give birth to a human person or a divine person?  Was Mary, or was she not, in that sense, “Mother of God?”  Can we even speak those words?  Well, God chose and prepared her for Himself, from all the women of all time, to be the bearer of His Son.  And while the first person of the Trinity, God the Father is the sole source of Jesus’ divinity, from “in the beginning”, and Mary the sole source of his humanity, by the power of the Holy Spirit these two natures are inseparably, indivisibly, united in the one person Jesus Christ from the moment of His conception — thus declared the great council of Ephesus.  And as God’s Son is Divine and not only human, well, then Mary properly IS to be called the Mother of God.

The precise title “Mother of God” goes back even further, at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God-bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos.

Really, it just remains kind of mind blowing to me.  Mary had the choice to say, “Um, nope, not doing this, too hard, too strange…really?  Mother of God?  I don’t get it….let me think about it.”  But she didn’t.  She said “Yes.” “Fiat.”  And thus the world began to be brought back into the proper order and we were all given the best present ever.

        “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining,
               ’til He appeared, and the soul felt it’s worth”

So today I am looking at icons.  Because today, on the last day of Christmas, we celebrate the mother, the Theotokos, the “Mother of God.”  And really, icons are about the only way to begin to wrap your mind around all this.  Because who can imagine God, really?  You can’t. I can’t — not really as He is.  And as soon as you think you are…well,  you’ve fallen into presumption now, haven’t you?  So, icons are perfect for today.  They function as “little windows into heaven.”  Icons (Ikonos — Images, in Greek) are images of the true Ikon, the one who images the Father, the one who shows us the Father, the face of God, that he revealed to the world “in the fullness of time” born of a woman, of a pure and holy virgin.  Whom He loves more deeply, more perfectly than any other son loves his mother, and whom “all generations shall call blessed”.

They are not meant to be realistic or have realistic lifelike perspective.  They represent what we cannot fully see with just our own eyes and senses; they image the world beyond the veil, the divine, the eternal.  And so today I want to look at these icons and ponder them.  Ponder what it means for her to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos…what faith and trust it took to say ‘fiat’, ‘be it done unto me according to thy word.’  To contemplate the fullness of it all and take maybe one or two (or the multitude that I need) lessons from it. 

Today ends the Octave of Christmas.  The new year is launched.  It is set in motion with a remembrance of the greatest faith and hope and love.  We step into the new year on the right foot, so to speak.  Today we celebrate mom, Mary.  I like that so much.  And, it’s really no coincidence that it’s also the World Day of Peace.  Because we mom’s, we are all about peace: the seeking, the getting, the craving, the searching, the making of peace.
Peace almost always begins with the mom.

Thus, we need today’s World Day of Peace and New Year to coincide with the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  It’s a big job, a big day.  We need the the biggest hope and love of the best mother….because she brings us her Son. 

Happy New Year!
Happy Feast day!
Wishing us all a peaceful day and new year to come!

>Merry Christmas Birthday Baby Girl!

>

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to my Sbird!!
Eleven years old already!
My best Christmas present, ever!

It is such a special thing to have a Christmas birthday…but I know it doesn’t always feel like it is. 
It feels like it can be forgotten in all the wrapping and busy and fun.
But it will never be forgotten.
It wouldn’t even feel like Christmas now, without your birthday streamers and princess cake!
You, my sweet bird, are so special to me. To us.  To our family.

You, and your Christmas birthday, makes our Christmas extra special.
You are a remarkable young girl.
You are so strong, and work so hard.
You have a sweet good heart.
You try your hardest, every day.
And even when you get so mad sometimes, you always come back and make up with me.

You have a loving caring spirit.
You love to take care of smaller kids and are so good with babies.
You hate to see anyone or anything get hurt.
You love to sew and to make things.
You have an imagination and creativity as big as the Milky Way.

You are now eleven.
You, my tiniest baby, are growing so big…real double digits.
You have some big adventures, right ahead!
But even so you give me the best “morning squeeze” when we are up early in the kitchen.
And you still love playing dolls with  your sister, for hours at a time. 
I love that about you girls.

We love you so very much, our Sbird.
I think you are wonder-full.
We wish you the happiest of birthdays.
We wish for your birthday wishes to come true.
Even if it means that pineapple farm in Hawaii!

Happy Happy Bday Sbird!
We love you and are so proud of you!

>Almost Wordless Wednesday

>

 
O Tannenbaum, part deux.
Decorating the tree (it turned out more, um, “petite” than expected, but still pretty)
with the traditional hot chocolate by the twinkling lights after.
Ah, tradition.

>O tannenbaum!

>

So, Sunday was the big Christmas tree expedition.  My husband, otherwise known as Coffeedoc, is a bit of a maniac about some things.  So he has decided that it is not properly Christmas without an “over the river and through the woods” sort of experience…to cut the tree.

See that snow? That’s because in order to CUT (not buy, he doesn’t want them precut in November because he is also a maniac about keeping that tree up until epiphany – or beyond) the tree that I like (Frasier Fir), he has to drive over three hours.  Now, before you go and think I am a completely outrageous diva for demanding this…let me clarify.  I NEVER ASKED him to schlep drive so far for a tree.  I am, always, just happy to have a tree, any tree (though preferably not pine….oops, a diva slippage)

Anyhow, it is becoming something of a new tradition and I kind of like it.  But then again, I get to stay home and wrap presents and hang out with Miss M and Gabey Baby.  A very lovely relaxing day for us.  And while there IS a certain level of grouchiness as they all set out on the expedition, ahem, it makes for a good snowball fight once they are there.

It was Marta’s first time with snow,  and snowballs.  It was cold, fun, exhausting…and they came home with a pretty tree.  So, now, it’s beginning to look a lot more like Christmas!

>Dark into Light

>

It’s the “shortest”day of the year.  The least amount of daylight, the longest night.

And it’s perfect timing I’d say.   No only because today has been metaphorically a darker day – a slamming day filled with tantrums, sulks, and intensive parenting…but because it’s when I begin to crave the light when the dark is too long.  We are made for it.  I need it, on so many levels.  From the purely physical level of dismay,”Gosh how can it  be dark already?” to the mildy fussy blue overtone of my mood for the day.  I am craving more light, both inside and out. 

That, that craving, is really what Advent is all about, it’s what it’s made for.  So too, we are made for the light to come…in a few days.  Christmas is almost here, Advent is waning.  The dark night is long, and these last few days it’s nice to have that anticipation built in – even to our world’s own nature, and ours.

Yes.  I’m ready for Christmas.  Not ready, yet, for the details of the day….soon, soon.  But for the main event? You betcha.  I’m ready.  Today, the shortest day of the year, we get one big step closer to it.  Each day, a tiny incremental bit brighter, longer.  And then, it’s Christmas day and that Light only continues to lengthen and grow.  One of my favorite Christmas, or more accurately, Advent hymns is “O Come Emmanuel,” and now, just yesterday, does our Church begin to sing it…in anticipation. 
I can’t wait.

>O, Christmas: O Antiphons

>

Last year I posted daily on the O Antiphons.  This year has been a bit too crazed for me to post daily on, um, anything!  However, my son, Buddybug, has.  So this is a shameless brag on my boy and a link to his site so you can get them there.  They really are beautiful.  Go, read, enjoy a little Christmas peace.  (And we’ll find out just how he had time to post these during finals, later.)

>The waiting begins. Advent.

>Waiting.
This blog is about nothing if not waiting.
Waiting is one of the very worst skills of mine; by which I mean, I stink at waiting.
I am wretched at waiting because I have no patience.
So, of course I have had to wait many times, and surely will continue to.
And it is surely the reason I have eight children.
I have waited for many things and people over the years.
Sometimes I fall into the huge trap of “wishing away my life” (as they say here in the south) by the way I wait.
It’s true.
I have done that far too much, far too often.
I suspect I’ve lost years.

I have waited impatiently, filled with busyness, to finish college.
To get into grad school and out again.
Waited for Coffeedoc to finish med school. Then internship. Then residency.
Waited to stop being broke.
Waited to get married (seven years dating, so, I’m not kidding).
Waited to get pregnant (but only the third time…and that wait was particularly long and particularly difficult on all levels).
Waited to adopt. To be selected by a birthmom. To hold that baby.
Waited to adopt from Ethiopia. To jump through the paperwork hoops. To be matched with a referral. To pass court. To travel.
Waited for the CDC to clear my daughter to come home. To be allowed to travel.

Heck, I can turn waiting for Coffeedoc to get home for dinner into a sporting event.
So, yeah, I wait…all too often. And I do it all wrong.
Patience is NOT one of my virtues. Thus, I suffer a bit, or a lot, waiting.

The reason to drone on about all this waiting is that today is a special day.
Today is the day to try, once again, to approach waiting in the right spirit.
Today is the day to reframe the waiting into a better approach: preparation.
Today is the day to recognize the beauty of the wait: the anticipation, the slow glow of expectation.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

I love Advent.

When done right Advent is a season (four Sundays) of rich tradition, prayerful contemplative expectation, a settling into the deep; it is combined with an overlaid gauze of building excitement.
It is a preparation -not for a Christmas morning frenzy of torn wrapping paper and too many gifts.
But rather, a mindful preparation for the advent, literally the ‘coming,’ of the most important gift of all.

I almost always fail Advent.
I stay mired in the cycling hubub of my house, the must do’s, the should’s, the pressures and strains. I get lost in the jumble of calendar commitments and then resent the time they snatch away.
It’s the curse of the goal oriented…this sense of ‘eye on the prize.’ Get to Christmas, make it happen.
But the trap is that then you miss the process, the very beauty of the anticipation.
You miss one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
I wish away this gorgeous season.

This year, once again, I hope to be more mindful.
To prepare the gifts early enough to stop the last minute frantic fretting and gathering.
To dig in and slow way down.
I hope and pray to see and stop and savor the small moments – the ones I might miss as I move so fast through the days.

This is Advent. It’s a beautiful time of preparation, inside and out.
It’s almost Christmas! He is coming.
The waiting begins again.

Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints;
that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.
From the Divine Office: First Sunday of Advent.

>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

>

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.