Friday, November 30, 2007
It is a beautiful prayer. I can assure you that it will heighten your anticipation of Christ's holy birth, and help you to focus on the real beauty of Christmas morning during this busy time.
I'll post the novena in my sidebar from now until Christmas day for anyone who would like a reminder.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Gianna: Look at this, Mother. Isn't it lovely?
Madeleine: Ooohh wook, Mom. Wuvwee!
Gianna: I'll place these berries right here. (She steps back to view her handiwork.) Oh my! Beautiful!
Madeleine: Oh goodness. Beeauifuw, Jonna! Wuvwee!
Gianna: Mama, you're not saying anything. Don't you think it's so beautiful? Don't you think it's just lovely?
Me: Yes. You took the words right out of my mouth. :)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The scenes seemed terribly sad. Images of people holding all-night vigil for......things. Complaining of the cold and the absence of comfort, but still willing to wait and suffer for a great deal, some wondered whether it was really worth it. Perhaps many of them truly are poor - in need of a good price to provide for a family need. Perhaps many are already in the practice of keeping vigil all night in front of the Blessed Sacrament, making this a small sacrifice. I would like to think so.
The following morning, Black Friday itself, we visited the sick bed of a venerable old woman who has lived her life in great love....not of things....but of her Father in Heaven, Our Lady, her Mother, and virtues that will transcend this life and accompany her into the next when the time comes for her to go. She lay there beautifully, peacefully and alert but without complaint even while suffering tremendous pain - a striking contrast to shoppers begrudging the cold and the lack of sleep on television the night before. I find it compelling that the suffering for the one, though received, is accepted gracefully; while for the others, though self-imposed, is resented.
God always seems to choose the perfect time to teach me something. Often He enlightens by way of reminder - awakening me to a truth He's taught again and again....and again. This Thanksgiving weekend, only ten days before the season of Advent, I felt privileged to behold His tender instruction in the form of such sharp contrast, two opposing images working together to remind me: It's not about this life.
I've been keeping these images firmly in mind since last week. I know they will pass soon - much too soon, settling themselves in the back of my memory. For now I'm grateful to have them at the forefront and hope they persist, at least long enough that at the end of Advent I may be just a little more like the beautiful woman I visited, who still in her final hours keeps vigil......for the Infant to be born on Christmas day.
[Please be assured that I don't mean to be critical of any particular persons who may have taken advantage of the sales last Friday. I am all in favor of buying things on sale and using coupons when available. It was more the news coverage of the evening, which generally portrayed begrudged shoppers in long lines for luxury items.]
Monday, November 26, 2007
You may want to stock up on your cranberries if you plan to use them a lot this winter. With five times the antioxidant content of broccoli , these berries are super-food for your health! Cranberries aren't only for relish on the holiday dinner table. They can be used in muffins, pancakes, cookies, syrups, breads, teas and much more.
A simple and tasty way to incorporate cranberries into your day? This Cranberry-Pear Butter can be spread on toast, raisin bagels, turkey sandwiches and whatever else appeals to your taste-buds. (The ginger gives the butter a pleasant kick, and isn't too strong for little ones!)
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The air has been crisp early and late in the day, and leaves are falling all around town, crunching under our feet. Life is good. We are blessed.
The girls and I made a pumpkin pie a short while ago, and have the rest of the day to relax. I love this upcoming meal and every bit of preparation that goes into it. Working with the ingredients - simmering cranberries and orange zest with sugar and cinnamon in the evening; combining pumpkin and spices with heavy cream in the morning - and the aroma of autumn wafting through the house for days on end - it's all therapeutic to me.
I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, but instead I'll be cooking the meal at my in-law's. Now there's something to be grateful for - the leisure to cook and not end up with a messy kitchen. Thank you, Grandma Carol, for allowing me to work in your quarters! We'll visit with my grandparents the following day. Time spent with them, the little we may have left, is always cherished.
Life is good. We are blessed.
Have a lovely Thanksgiving, everyone!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
The mere sight of it was all it took.
Do you remember this game? A highlight from my childhood (and my husband's too, as I recently discovered) involving a fascinating contraption: you turn a crank which rotates a set of gears, causing a lever to push the stop sign which hits the boot, kicking the bucket, spilling a marble down a flight of stairs and into a pipe, hitting a rod, causing the hand at the top of the rod to tip another marble into a bathtub. (Insert breath here.) The marble spirals down the bathtub drain onto a diving board, catapulting the diver through the air into a bucket, causing a cage to fall down, trapping the mouse underneath.
Too, too fun. Clever and bizarre. It's been keeping us busy after dinner around here. :)
Friday, November 16, 2007
But every once in a while, some project jumps out at me and says, "Look here! Aren't I beautiful? Aren't I adorable? Your girls will love making me, and so will you!" I embrace these moments wholeheartedly. I admit they don't come all that often - the craft must be very appealing - but when they do I inevitably discover myself getting excited over every little detail.
When I saw these Pom-Pom Toms, that was it for me. I wasn't even looking for a craft at the time, but the turkeys were impossible to miss, appearing on the first page. Then I showed the image to Gianna......and the rest is history!
These guys were super fun and very easy to make. You don't need a pom-pom maker as Martha insists. I just picked up a bag of various-sized poms from the craft store. Not keen on the idea of using a hot glue gun around small ones, I had Gianna use Glue Dots and Lines to adhere the materials together. They're wonderful - easy for children to use, mess-free and strong.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Madeliene eats everything. All the regular kid-friendly fare for sure. But she prefers food with a little more flair - shrimp scampi, sauteed mushrooms with garlic, all kinds of seafood, beef, lamb and chicken. And asparagus. (What two year old likes asparagus?) Recently we ate grilled chicken with a very tangy and garlicky lemon-pepper sauce. She was relentless - "Mo sauce, mo sauce!" Madeleine has a unique taste for raw onions, radishes, fresh parsley, and more raw onions. She's been known to throw a clove of garlic in her applesauce.
Mealtime is always interesting in this household. I go with the flow. I figure they'll grow out of it at some point, so for now I'll pick bigger battles.
Like.....Madeleine drinking my entire cup of coffee this morning while I was busy hanging a picture on the wall. (Insert image of normally calm mother chasing highly caffeinated toddler all afternoon.) Now that's a battle worth picking!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Do you ever look around you, in a public place, and wonder how many of those in your line of vision will visit God in the confessional? I wonder why we do this. It isn't a matter of judging anyone - we just want others to receive the same benevolence we have at our own disposal. How we long for all to receive this mercy - especially for those outside the Church - to find their Mother, and bask in Her infinite generosity through the sacraments.
Thank you, Lord, for your boundless mercy.
Friday, November 9, 2007
So why did I tear these booklets apart with my scissors? Well, my little ones are big into imaginative play these days. A new character and accompanying story emerge from their bedrooms every day. Our home has hosted fairies, storybook characters, saints, ballerinas, princesses, nurses, mothers, firefighters and much more. So, Gianna and I were reading these little saint's stories the other day and I thought, why not let her choose which saint she would like to be, say, for a week. During that week she could remind herself (with subtle help!) every morning what virtues that saint emulated, what good deeds she accomplished for others, how she prayed or taught or obeyed her superiors. And Gianna could "be" that particular saint for the day/week.
So we cut the booklets apart, making a wall hanging of the illustrations along with a note indicating her feast day and patronage. Gianna rubbed off floral transfers to make the cards a little prettier and we'll hang them up using wall putty.
practicing with the transfers
This week Gianna is St. Catherine of Alexandria. She likes St. Catherine's wheel and the fact that it broke when it touched her body. Today she is working on "praying for mean people who hurt others".
Thursday, November 8, 2007
....was a happy day indeed.
Last year on Thanksgiving Day I prepared mashed potatoes for a hundred people. Wanting my starch to be served fresh and hot for such a multitude, I bought a potato ricer in anticipation of the endeavor, thinking I would alternate using it with the KitchenAid, or maybe utilize both at the same time (ha! Try that at your own risk!). What I didn't realize, was how wonderfully easy it was to mash with this little contraption. It whipped up my potatoes faster, smoother and with less mess than the mixer. After the first five pounds of potatoes I stopped using the mixer entirely.
I'm totally hooked. It's fun, and I love that it looks like a huge garlic press! I'm not sure yet how many people I'll be preparing for this year, but should I be required to serve potatoes.....I've got my weapon. Bring 'em on!
(photograph courtesy williams-sonoma.com. Yes, you can purchase yours there. I'll not say whether you can find the same ricer somewhere else for less. :)
It helps to be a minimalist during this time of year (though it's causing trouble in other areas, but that's for another post). I have only two presents to purchase for my daughters, one kind of cookie to make, and some very simple home decorating to do. It's much too easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of the holidays. Stress can quickly take over, putting a damper on all that we mothers strive to do for our families and friends. We want to do it all, to please everyone, and we want to do it well.
I remember last year at this time, admiring the myriad of ideas and incredible creativity among the great moms in the blogosphere. I was in awe. So many beautiful ideas, so much inspiration, and so little time.
Those ideas will begin to surface again now, as we approach the season of Advent. The baking, the crafts and the abundant purple adornment in our homes can enrich the anticipation of Christ's birth in the hearts of our children. And they should. But I can't help but feel that simplicity too will contribute to the richness of Advent for my family. It is a time of waiting, of watchfulness, of preparation not really for entertaining guests, but for a Sacred Birth. Yes, there will be dinners to prepare, cookies to make and packages to mail. But even those preparations can be done simply and beautifully and still be appreciated by their recipients. Homes do not need a top-to-bottom cleaning. A freshening and a bit of order will do just fine. After all, Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the world in a stable - The Guest of guests borne not in a warm and lavishly decorated home, but in a cold barn on straw and amongst cattle.
This year as I admire the plethora of plans and crafty ideas around me (and there are many, many terrific options!), I will choose for my own household those things that will best suit my family and cultivate in us a spirit of joyful anticipation. Enough to enliven our hearts, but not so much that I become overwhelmed. I know all too well that when I am overwhelmed, so is my family.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Fortunately, they were (though they don't know it). I found the same wreath at Land's End for $59. Better. But still highly overpriced.
To my pleasant surprise, Costco also carries this particular wreath. Only theirs is slightly bigger. Costco's price? $34. Now that's fair.
Why am I disappointed every time I see this sort of price gouging in commercialism? I know I should expect it, but it really does make me sad.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Such an occasion occurred recently, and though I won't bore you with details, I will say that my daughters were with me at the time. Unfortunately the elder of the two is now capable of comprehending more than she could in the past, and thus the questions later arose. "Do you want to have a baby, Mama? In your belly?"
Gianna's curiosity was good and natural for a child who was borne into her family through adoption. I responded to her in plain truth and with great satisfaction, "No, Gianna. I'd like to have all my babies just the same way I had you." As was shown on her face and in her loving smile, she was pleased with my answer and went on about her business of imaginative play (shepherdess style!) with her sister. As to the well-intended fertility advice from others, I give them the same response: "Thank you, but I no longer desire to conceive a child. I am happy with adoption as my means to motherhood. "
Before Gianna the stirring desire to be a mother was in part about raising and nurturing children from birth to adulthood, and in part about the experience of bearing a child in my womb. I wanted to feel a baby's kick in my belly. I wanted to experience morning sickness, wear maternity clothes, and to give birth gloriously (at least that's how I imagined it) at the end of nine months. And out of all that would come a baby resembling me or my husband, both physically and temperamentally. Perhaps she would have my smile and my husband's eyes, or my optimism and his perseverance. Such child-bearing experiences and such genetic qualities passed down seemed very important. That is, until the day I adopted my first baby.
We brought baby Gianna into our home for the first time on a cold, snowy Michigan afternoon, the natural sunlight dimmed by heavy grey clouds outside our patio door. But inside our one-bedroom apartment was a warmth, coziness, and love abounding from a tiny, eight-pound sun ray that lit up my whole world. Our small home which had once felt at times lonely and cold, as though it was missing something, transformed instantly into the home of a family, its walls containing a fulfillment before unknown to me. Just one new life, and so much change.
I remember holding Gianna in my arms that first day home pondering, "Is that all I had to do to gain this reward?" The years of childlessness and suffering which accompanied them seemed insignificant. Certainly, they were. I would have endured them another six years for the happiness that came from those first moments of motherhood. I imagine it is something like the moment we enter Heaven.....to see God face to face and realize how little was asked of us for such a reward.
I never anticipated my desire to bear children naturally would ever disappear. After all, I knew adoptive mothers who felt they were still missing something, even after having adopted. I don't fault women for such feelings - I do recall the pain of childlessness - but I haven't any experience of resentment or wondering. The beauty of adoption is what I know. It is the way I have children and the means by which I've received every moment of motherly fulfillment. It is how my life and my home transformed into blessings I appreciate each and every day. It is what brought me peace and contentedness, and removed the desire for anything other than what I already have. It is my vocation.