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christmastree

We’re Christmas-ing

… We can dream, and in our dreams, we’re Christmasing with you

It’s December 23rd. Our house is all of a-flutter with activity.  The living room is being sorted and packed away to our storage facility to make room for our Christmas tree.  Once it is chosen and brought home, it will be duly named, as has been our tradition for many, many years.  Corn will be popped for strings, paper cut for chains.  Tomorrow the tree will be strung with lights and garlands, and hung with handmade ornaments.  Around the base, we will place the beautiful hand-quilted skirt made lovingly by Brian’s mom.

Today, each of us is busy putting last minute touches to handmade gifts and planning our cooking schedule for tomorrow.  It will be – as always – a very busy day.  We’ll be making recipes ahead, baking cherry crisp and egg nog cake (invented by my dear sweet friend, Jennifer).  I’ll go and collect Catherine from her job in the afternoon and we’ll make our annual trip to the local NICU to drop off hand-made (and blessed by our priest) hats and blankets for the babies there.  We’ll stop for our traditional supper at Burger King (I know, I know but it’s only once a year).

After more decorating and naps all around, we’ll bathe small children and clothe their sweet little selves in their Christmas finery.  At the hour they would normally be toddling off to bed, we’ll pile into the van and drive the 10 minutes to church.  What a treat it is for the children to be up so late!  We are all anticipating the magic of the sanctuary filled with beautiful light, the creche awaiting the Christ child, the choral prelude to Mass, and the sweet Holy Family Tableau.  But more than that, we will look forward to singing Happy Birthday to Our Lord and visiting friends after Mass in what is truly our family’s home.

We will miss the physical presence of friends who have gone home to Heaven.  We know that they will be celebrating with us at that Great Moment in the Mass when the veil between Heaven and earth is drawn back and we are all together, giving thanks and praise.  We will also be missing those of our friends who are not well enough to be in attendance.  One of the special charms of visiting after the Mass is seeing the delight on the face of our senior priest as he greets his spiritual children, young and old.  Despite the late hour, and perhaps also his own fatigue, he is ever the cheerful and enthusiastic patriarch, shaking hands, receiving hugs, and commenting with loving care on how lovely the children all look.  His recovery from a recently broken hip is not likely to sink his spirits, but may prevent him from presiding over his family after the Mass this year.

Especially in our hearts are those who are ill, unemployed, underemployed, and the families of troops deployed overseas.

So while we’re bustling away, know, dear readers, that our family will be whispering a prayer that your family is abundantly blessed with peace, joy, and love in the coming year.

{this moment}

Tea time for James

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ at SouleMama for all to find and see.

St. Lucia Day

Saffron buns and hot coffee before dawn. Every 13th of December.  Except this one.  Our family has found itself busier than ever this year.  Our adult daughter is working, we have a new baby, three preschoolers, three “schoolers”, and Brian and I working, planning, and studying.  I nearly forgot altogether until Brian’s cell phone rang at the book store.  It was our oldest daughter Cat, asking to speak to me.

“Mum?”

“Yeeees?” I replied while not-so-deftly transferring a huge pile of books to a convenient shelf.

“Did you want me to make the Lucy buns tonight?”

Panic shot through my body like a jolt of electricity. How on earth did I manage to forget?  I mean, this is our *big deal* Advent celebration.  Sheesh!  I hadn’t made the wreath for Cat to wear (probably her last year as Lucy), I hadn’t made more star boy hats for the boys.  A million self-abusive thoughts ran through my mind in a nanosecond.  What a terrible mother!  I’m supposed to be making memories for my children, upholding traditions…  I wonder now what my face looked like.

Then suddenly a moment of inspiration and calm came over me (Sweet Guardian Angel, my thanks).

“No,” I told Cat. “We’ll do them tomorrow and have them for snack instead”

“OK” she replied.  And after a few more pleasantries, she rang off.

I had come, mercifully, to the conclusion that it didn’t matter what time of day we had our Lucy buns; that adhering slavishly to tradition was pointless if it meant putting undue strain on myself, my husband, my children.  And it occurred to me that making the buns together with the little children would change things up a bit, and make a lasting memory for all of us.

You might say a light dawned on me.  Thank you God for using St. Lucia’s feast day to illumen my heart and mind to the real reason we create and keep traditions, and directing my focus to the true Light.

If  you are interested in reading more about St. Lucia’s Day, please accept my gift of this article to you.

It includes a recipe for Lussekatter (Lucy buns) for you to try.  And don’t worry if you can’t make them today, make them anytime and enjoy them with your precious ones.

Papa Blogs:: True Heroes

Our family welcomed our eighth child, Joséphine Marie, into our family on November 2d.  For the first time in our married life, I had the opportunity to take a full two weeks off of work to focus on the other children and help Nissa fully recover from the birth mostly because of the support I received from my business partner, Jerry.  So, this was probably the first time that my focus was on my family and not worried about what I was missing at work, or how much work I was going to have to endure when I returned.

The best thing that came out of my “vacation” was to experience the daily trials of our family routine.  Up early with the first child awakening.  Raising the other children at some reasonable proximity to the scheduled wake up time.  Organizing and overseeing chores, meal times, clean up, baths, story time, bedtime.  And we were not even engaged in a full homeschooling schedule – nevermind the requirements of our various on-line activities and businesses.  I can say now with certainty – that stay at home mothers (and fathers for that matter) have the hardest job on earth.  And the most important job, too – being present for your children when they need help.  I now understand the almost non-existent appreciation that goes with it all.  AND I ONLY HAD TO DO IT FOR TWO WEEKS.

So, as I return to full-time work (so I can recoup from my tour as Mister Mom), I am grateful for the amazing sacrifice my dear wife makes for me and our family every day.  I pray that I will always remember that a little acknowledgement goes a long way to make sure she always knows just how much her family appreciates what she does for us; and provide her the support and love she deserves.

To everyone who has chosen to sacrifice your personal ambitions for the benefit of your family by choosing to be a stay at home parent – You are truly a HERO.

TV Free again

Our family woke Monday morning to a bit of extra space in the family room.  Space that was once occupied by a small second-hand television.  It took up more than physical space – it stole time and energy from daily interactions and activities.  I plan to write more about the decision we’ve made, but for now I leave you with a favourite poem.  It says a good deal of what we were thinking::

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
~ “Mike Teavee” by Roald Dahl

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