Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Thought for New Year's Eve

A worthy way to end each day, and certainly the year:

"When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life."

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for putting this in my path today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Although I don't set the best example, I want my children to acquire the habit of sending prompt, thoughtful thank you notes. We've started our post-Christmas attempts.

From the beginning (almost two decades now!) I've used a standard format for these letters.

Read all about it at Phases of Womanhood.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beautiful Music

I've seen references to the Cajun musical trio, L'Angelus, in several places on the internet lately. Over at Phases of Womanhood, Mary Lenaburg has posted her interview with one of the siblings in the group. Go read it, listen to the musical sample, and leave a comment for a chance to win a cd.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hung by the Chimney With Care

Len hung the stockings several weeks ago. After the lighted tree, the mantle is my favorite Christmas decoration. I smile whenever I look at it.

These stockings are an ancient family tradition, being almost as old as me. ;-) My mom's friend, Sue, made mine when I was little. Mom copied it, creating new ones for each of my siblings. Every stocking was uniquely decorated, but mine was the best--the Christmas tree adorned with bits of cast off jewelry. When Len joined the family, Mom made his with animal ornaments. I took responsibility for Lauren's stocking, and eventually made hers with a tree like mine.We (Mom and I both made some) then followed tradition, making different designs for succeeding stockings.
Eventually I was no longer satisfied. David didn't like his, I didn't like Daniel's (the sequin snowflakes got bent when I ironed webbing on the back), and Joe's ornaments seemed babyish after a few years.
When Marianna was a few years old and overdue for her own stocking (this non-sewer procrastinated but wouldn't let her mom make one, either...), I decided to remake the boys' while creating hers. I wanted everyone to have a Christmas tree.
It was fun to map out the different decorations. Every tree has a candy cane and a garland shaped like mine.
Putting them together was NOT fun, especially because I waited so long. As I remember it now, I had a crew going in the basement, sewing on trinkets and writing names with fabric paint--Mom, Len, Lauren, me, and maybe my dad, too. When the Christmas Eve festivities were over at my in-laws', Mom and I stayed up LATE putting the pieces together. Of course, my mom did most of that work, since she can sew. Maybe that's when I glittered on the names. It's all a bit hazy now...
As the years have passed, I've also made stockings for the young women who have lived with us, plus some of their babies and my Rebecca, usually finishing the ordeal at the last minute. Although satisfying to complete, I have to admit I'm relieved to not be making any this year!
Here are a few more close-ups:Sorry, the rest of my photos came out even more blurry or dark or bright, and I'm not retaking any now! Instead of indulging myself by posting I should be making egg nog or cinnamon rolls or onion soup or breakfast casserole right now, or maybe wrapping presents. It's still too early to run out for the last groceries. :-)
Enjoy your day and have a blessed and happy Christmas.Still waiting for Jesus...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pleasures of the Season

One of my absolute favorites: turning on the tree lights early in the morning, while the house is still quiet and dark. Len had to hunt all over this year (MANY stores were sold out even two weeks ago!) to find enough working strands, but his efforts were well worth it. We decorated our Christmas tree this weekend, and it's beautiful, but I'd be satisfied with just lights and the treetop angel.

Coziness: sipping hot hot chocolate [as opposed to warm hot chocolate :-)] while watching a dvd with Len in a quiet house. David got us interested in Burn Notice, a tv show about a burned spy stuck in Miami. There are the gratuitous shots of bikini-clad women (who probably don't drink hot chocolate), but so far the episodes are fun (tricks and cons) and short (no commercials!)--light entertainment. We're only a few hours in to the first of three seasons, so consider this a preliminary recommendation; some acceptable shows seem to push the envelope more as time goes by.

Also popular: listening to Christmas music. Right now my favorite cd is John Michael Talbot's The Birth of Jesus, because it includes some gorgeous Advent hymns: "Of the Father's Love Begotten", "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming", as well as "What Child is This" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". I'm happy to putter around the main level (or more likely, in the kitchen), listening and singing along.

I'm noticing that everything on my "happy list" is quiet and solitary (or nearly so). I read once that there are two kinds of people: those who recharge by socializing and those who instead need solitude. While I do enjoy the company of others (and have only lived alone for a few days in my WHOLE LIFE, which I did NOT enjoy), I am absolutely a quiet time re-energizer.

Whichever you are, I hope you are treasuring these last few days of Advent.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Small Successes: 8 Days A-waiting


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I don't know about you, but my Advent is getting crazy! I'm trying so hard to multi-task that my primary duties (like schooling...) are being neglected. The latest sign of this frenzy: while enroute to see the Rockettes yesterday afternoon, I noticed that I had still not put on my mascara. You dark haired beauties may not think much of it, but let me tell you, a redhead with invisible eyelashes for an entire day is a woman on the edge!

Success can be a matter of perspective, though. Here's what's gone well:
  1. Our family went to Confession last night, a) getting there before Christmas, and b) getting there ahead of the big pre-Christmas rush (and long lines). My favorite quote of the evening was from my encouraging confessor: "Allow God to love you."
  2. I spent some time on Sunday writing up a detailed school plan for the week. I should do this all the time, but don't. It could have been a BIG success if I actually followed the plan instead of multi-tasking so much (see above). My older two, at least, were able to stay on track (and pull me back to work) better with everything written in their planners. Poor Becca hasn't had much regular work, but she has used her time well, with puzzles, making cards, imaginative play, and other "good stuff".
  3. A while back I was at Like Mother, Like Daughter and ran across Leila's buttermilk baking mix recipe. I put together a batch, and have made biscuits four times in the past month! I generally consider baking to be precision cooking, but having the mix ready has allowed me to wing it quickly and easily.
How's your week been? Be inspired by other moms here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Let Your Kids Read This Post

Or, How the Rockettes Reminded Me Why We Don't "Do" Santa

The Rockettes brought a version of their famous Radio City Christmas show to Virginia this week, and I attended with my mother-in-law and the two little girls.

The dancers are definitely talented: energetic, coordinated, and athletic. Some of their costumes were too scanty (faux see-through) and some of their numbers had as much posing and writhing as [what I would call] dancing, but their "can-can" feats and tin soldier precision were truly impressive. Overall, the show was a bit over the top, not exactly my taste, but whatever...

It was the Santa stuff that got me thinking deep thoughts, however. This "right jolly old elf" was on stage several times, which was fine...but...

There was a skit about two boys encountering Santa: a 14 year old skeptic (maybe the toughest kind there is) and his younger brother, a "believer". The boys were transported to the North Pole and back, acquiring the perfect last minute gift for their little sister, and in the process the teen became a "believer" too. The script emphasized over and over again the magic of Christmas and the need to believe in the magic.

I remembered that a Nativity scene was coming up later, and that's when I had my moment of clarity. Putting all that empasis on the importance of believing in someone who's not real and something that's not true can make it harder to believe the mystery of the Incarnation--the eternal God becoming human--infant, sacrifice, and Savior. When the gospel was read by the same characters (and good for the producers, not making a 100% secular Christmas show), it could almost as easily have been another pleasant, inspiring tale, like the Santa episode.

And that's why our family doesn't pretend Santa is real. I don't want to encourage my children to believe truth AND untruth, don't want the potential confusion, don't want to lie (that's how it feels to me).

I know most other families have made a different decision, and I'm okay with that. Not that anyone has asked for my opinion or permission! :-) As it happens, I grew up in a "Santa family", and don't even remember "finding out", so apparently it was no big deal for me. And I'm absolutely NOT writing this to say my way is best, but to explain where I'm coming from, what I've believed for the past 20 years.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

So I'm not one of those together moms who has her Christmas shopping done; I'm not even close! Here, however, are three accomplishments from the week past:
  1. I made mashed potatoes for dinner. Ho-hum, you say? Fifteen pounds, I say! We now have plenty packed in the freezer, ready for Christmas dinner. Our entree is not yet finalized (probably steak--I bought some porterhouse on sale yesterday), but I can serve mashed potatoes with just about anything and expect pleased customers.
  2. While sitting in the hallway at Joe's youth orchestra rehearsal (this time on a stool brought for my aging self), I finalized my winter menu cycle. It's four weeks long, includes some new favorite dishes and is ready to go--hurrah!
  3. Our family has been mostly faithful to reading, praying, and ornamenting our Jesse Tree. We're still in the Old Testament and are covering big sections of Scripture rather than just the few verses suggested for each ornament. The younger children are able to listen to longer passages since this school year we began the habit of reading at least one gospel chapter each day.
How about you and your Advent? Be inspired by other moms at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Screwtape Letters

If you haven't read The Screwtape Letters, you should! It's a brief, witty, thought-provoking book.

And if you live in the DC metro area, consider going to the theatrical version (December 16-January 3). I saw the production last year and enjoyed it so much that I organized a group outing through the boys' school.

The show's not just for "hard-core" Christians,either--C. S. Lewis's insights into human thought and behavior are enjoyable for all but the most ardent atheist.

More info from the Fellowship for the Performing Arts:

"C. S. Lewis’ brilliant novel, The Screwtape Letters, explores the theme of spiritual warfare from a demon’s point of view. When first published in 1942, it brought immediate fame to a little known Oxford don whose field of study was medieval English literature. Its wit and wisdom have made it one of C. S. Lewis’ most widely read and influential works.

Fellowship for the Performing Arts has adapted and produced this best selling classic into a thoroughly engaging and entertaining ninety minute theatrical production.


Set in a strikingly eerie, elegant and austere office in Hell, the play follows an ironic senior devil, Screwtape, who is equal parts charming intellectual, urbane psychologist, and cutthroat psychopath - and his secretary, Toadpipe, a creature who transforms instantly into recognizable figures with whimsical movement and wordless wit.

The mission: To instruct a novice demon, Wormwood, on the fine art of tempting a young Christian away from “the Enemy” (Screwtape’s name for God) and bring him safely down to the ravenous “our father below.”

Beloved by both audiences and critics alike, the stage version of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis offers an entertaining and provocative theatrical experience that will change the way you think about the influence of demons in your every day life."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Nice to Have a Doctor in the House

My thumb hurt for a few days, and there was a speck visible under the skin, probably a splinter. I figured it would just work its way out, but the spot became more bothersome and a bump formed over it. Time for surgery.

Len got to work, with tools that quickly escalated from naked eye to flashlight with magnifying glass to the stereo microscope set at 20 X (another benefit of homeschooling!). When he finally dug out the uncooperative bit, it was longer than I had expected (maybe 1/4") and wider at the end, too. I just HAD to have a look under the handy 'scope.

Bumped up to 40 X, this thing looked like it had come from outer space! It was dark grey, and attached to it were minuscule pink globes. Weird!

A light finally dawned--it must be a thread from an SOS steel wool pad. I'm no super dishwasher, but I had used one in an attempt to remove labels from our Advent letters (like Elizabeth's here) before painting. (It didn't work, by the way; I finally succeeded with lighter fluid.)

So ends another excerpt in the continuing saga, "Yes, I'm Easily Amused." And, yes, my thumb feels much better, thank you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Small Successes: Moving in the Right Direction


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I feel like we're still in Thanksgiving trip recovery mode, but we are moving forward.
  1. I'm proudest of the clothing-sort. I have scaled the MOUNTAIN of Rebecca's hand-me-downs, sorted by size (too small, fits, save), selected outfits, and given away the remains. This was an even bigger job than you think. First of all, the clothes have been strewn about my room for several weeks. We half-sorted before the trip, so there were many piles. Becca is, um, particular about her clothing--it can't be too tight or too loose (imperceptible differences, I tell you!), no turtlenecks, must appeal to her sense of fashion, etc. The most dreaded excuse (because how can you answer it?) is, "It's ITCHY!" At last it's over. I took FOUR kitchen trash bags of clothing to the thrift shop today. And the final bonus: for the first time in her five year life, none of Becca's clothes reside in my room! Everything is in the closet and dresser she shares with Marianna. Rejoice with me!
  2. In a nod to trip recovery, I cancelled the Soup Night scheduled for yesterday. It sounds like a step back, but was truly the best decision for my sanity and the peace of my family. I had fewer second thoughts than expected.
  3. We cleaned out the fridge pretty well before our trip. Since our return, I've prepared four dinners and three days' worth of food without a trip to the grocery store. We were scraping the bottom of the (produce) barrel last night, but I was able to wait until Len's day off to go out for supplies.
How about you? What are the bright spots in your frantic life? Check out others' accomplishments here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


From this giant wall calendar: And this hefty wallet/planner combo:
To a walletAnd a slim calendar/daily to-do list:The contrast is much greater than it appears here:The planner served me well for several years, but it was impossible for me to keep two calendars updated. I started using the planner mostly as a to-do list, but then stopped opening it because it was so bulky. Even finding the proper purse (now that I don't need a diaper bag size!) wasn't easy.
Now I've got ONE calendar. It's on the phone table or in my purse, so my family knows where to find it. The monthly page is smaller than ideal, but the daily list section is more than generous, so all-in-all I'm coming out ahead.
What I like best at this moment is how light and easy my new system is. My purse is significantly lighter, and manuevering the calendar in and out is a breeze. I've ditched much paper and also heavy coins--I contend that one really only needs to carry 99 cents anyway.
Most of the extras I carried in the big planner (menus, lists) will move to a homemaking notebook that will stay on my desk.
I'm having fun right now. I feel more organized (barely, but looking at a list is better than having tasks roaming aimlessly in and out of my brain). It's the same kind of self-improved feeling as losing weight or getting a really good haircut; it may not last forever, but it's oh-so-refreshing for now.