Tuesday, December 31, 2013

13 for 13

We've been busy celebrating the 12 days of Christmas around here by going from party to party and then sleeping and cleaning in between.  Instead of trying to catch up on all of the awesomeness that our Christmas has been (with the exception of the sad moments of not having my father-in-law with us for the first time), I decided to join in with Pam over at Everyday Snapshots and do 13 photos for 2013 to recap the whole year. 

January - Our first foray into the sporting world. 

February - A wonderful French dinner made and served by the St. Faustina Club that our daughter is in.

March - a chilly outing to Brookfield Zoo with Ms 21 yo's boyfriend along for the fun.

 April - one of those "100 year floods" that seem to be happening more often than every 100 years :)

May - Mr 8 yo's First Holy Communion

June - Two graduates and a confirmation, but I can only put up one picture per month :)

July - A wonderful family vacation to Northern Wisconsin - with a side trip to the U.P.

 August - more sports!

September - a trip to Michigan.  At that time we didn't know it was to be the last one with my father-in-law.

October - Tim and I took a trip to Milwaukee for our anniversary.  I love being near water, can't you tell?

November - This picture is meant to represent the birthdays of all of my children this past year, it's just that November was a low picture month so I picked this one from Ms 15 yo's birthday.

December - Our participation in the wonderful production of "The Conversion of Scrooge".

Bonus shot - our 25th Wedding Anniversary - the highlight of our year!

I wish you all a very blessed and happy 2014!

God Bless!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Daybook Days 21, 22 and 23


We had a relaxing weekend, partially due to the fact that my hubby came down with a cold and when that happens all he does is sleep.  Therefore we were not able to do some of the things we had on our to-do list, which isn't always a bad thing.

Sunday was decorate the tree and house day and as usual everyone had a good time.  The house looks nice and the tree is a welcome sight. Seeing the tree up always increases the anticipation.  I enjoy waiting until right close to Christmas to decorate because then I know that Christmas is right around the corner.

Today finds me in my new Blessed Mother apron that a friend made me for my birthday baking all kinds of treats for the next two days.  Quick breads, fudge, cookies....yum!


It always makes me sad when I think of the amount of dysfunction that exists in families these days; it seems to be everywhere!  Especially around the holidays it would be so wonderful to be able to happily celebrate with all of your relatives.  Come Lord Jesus and give us the grace to get along :)


Two things are lifting my spirit (not that it was down, mind you).  The first was at Mass this morning when Father gave us a few minutes to pray for our hearts to be opened to receive the Lord over the next two days.  The second happens tonight when I will go to our annual homeschool mom's cookie exchange.  Everyone gathers, bringing 6 dozen cookies if they so desire, and we pray the rosary together and then chat for awhile.  It is always a peaceful and blessed time.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!  Hard to believe that Advent is already over.  May Christ find a very special place in your heart during this special time.

God Bless!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent Daybook - Day 20


Today was a shopping day, yet again!  The kids and I all went out to the mall to finish what was left of our Christmas shopping.  We also visited Goodwill to pick up some white elephant gifts.  Personally, I don't like white elephants, but in the spirit of family giving, we're going along with it.  Let's just say that the kids picked out some interesting gifts.

After that I came home and tried to wrap my brain around what I needed from Wal Mart.  Thinking through all of the potential baking and goodies and food for the week took a lot of mental energy.  Then, I had to forge my way through the store, which fortunately wasn't as bad as I was expecting.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.  After dinner we're going to give "Elf" one more try.  Some of the kids and my husband and I watched part of it once and couldn't quite see what people saw in it.  Well, it's free on Google play today, so we're going to try watching the entire movie and see if we can agree with all the people who seem to love it!


Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Ms 21 yo's boyfriend's grandfather.  His name is Ray and he was 94 years old.  He died this afternoon during the hour of mercy.  It is always sad to lose a loved one, but right before Christmas just seems worse to me.


 There is so much sadness in the world today; so much strife between family members.  I find it difficult to read about all of the tragedies that seem to show up on my facebook wall and then remember that Advent is a time of joy.  Where is the joy in the world with so many people suffering in some way right now?  I guess this is when we need to dig deep and truly turn it all over to the Lord so that we can get a glimpse of the joyful anticipation of His coming.

God Bless!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Daybook - Day 19


We had a nice revolving door kind of day around here today.  Finally, the door was opening and closing with people coming in and out instead of us being the ones going through it.  We got a visit from my mom and dad, from a friend of the girls that they haven't seen in a number of years and from one of my friends who bought some soap and dropped off bags of clothing! 

Our most anticipated visitor, however, was the water filter man!  Those of you who have a well that reeks of sulfur will know what I am talking about.  About every year and a half our sulfur filter clogs up and we need to get a new one.  When this happens we have to bypass the filter in order for water to actually come out of the faucets, and you know what that means?  Yep, showers and dishes and brushing your teeth with that horrid, rotten egg smell.  It really is enough to make you gag (and often does).  We were so excited to see him pull up the driveway today!  No more smelly water - thank you Lord!


Every year we put together a Christmas letter and send it out with a family picture set to arrive right after Christmas day.  Well, it is a week before that day and there isn't a letter.   In fact, there isn't even a hint of a letter.  I have been totally uninspired this year.  I usually like to have the letter be light-hearted and humorous so we've always tried to change it up a bit - just to keep people on their toes.  Well, this year they'll be on their toes peering into their mail boxes trying to find it unless some inspiration hits me in the head very soon!


 O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse.  Come, save us, and do not delay!

God Bless!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Daybook - Day 18


Today I got to spend some time with one of my oldest and bestest friends, Cheryl.  I've known her forever (more on that later) and even though we don't live all that far apart, we hardly ever get to spend time together.  Today she came up to my house and we went to my favorite little tea room for lunch.  What a wonderful way to spend three hours :)  Wow, Mass, confession and lunch with a girlfriend - not much can beat that!


So I was thinking this evening about how Cheryl and I met 44 years ago.  I was four and she was five and we had just moved in across the street from her family.  It was December and it was snowing and I was outside playing when she came over to meet me.  We've been friends ever since.  As I only have one brother, she's the sister I never had.

I also thought about how she's been instrumental in so many things in my life.  It was 19 years ago that we went out Christmas shopping and to dinner and it was her answers to my questions that spurred on my reversion, that very evening, back to the Catholic faith.  It was through conversations with her that I decided to homeschool.  At first I thought she was nuts, but when I finally decided to go for it, she was right there to guide my way. 

God is so good to put such awesome people in our lives!


 I love the O Antiphon time of the year; it means we're getting that much closer to Christmas.  I am so grateful that life has been much quieter this week.  The St. Andrew Novena is still going strong, the snow is still on the ground giving the outside a definite festive feeling, and the past few nights have brought a very bright, full moon.  The spirit of Christmas is definitely approaching :)

God Bless!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 17


Today was one of those rare days when I had time to just go from task to task and take care of things.  It is amazing how much time that actually takes.  Picking up piles, sweeping floors, answering questions and phone calls and emails, etc.  I had time to sort through presents to make sure that I have what I need.  I made another batch of kombucha tea and this one finally tasted good again!  Dinner got made early and soon I'm off to lift weights with my hubby.  I love days like this.  Mind you, I probably wouldn't like endless days like this, but for now it is good.


Today I've been thinking about how last year we had the opportunity to do more festive things during Advent than we have had this year.  We visited more, we did secret things for people, we handed out candy around town.  It was fun!  This year I've spent the first two and a half weeks catching up and catching my breath.  Now that it's a week before Christmas, I'm ready to start doing those things, but realizing I'm still short on time.  Everything has a season and this season it just wasn't meant to be.


That peaceful feeling that comes with contentment has been with me today.  We made it to Mass on time and Father was encouraging the few of us who were there to come to confession.  It was nice to hear a priest encourage people; just wish there were more people who heard it.  Confession is on the docket for us tomorrow morning.  Hopefully it's on the priest's docket, too :)

God Bless!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent Daybook - Days 14, 15 and 16 !!


So I'm a bit behind right now :)  The snow on Saturday caused us to miss going to our nephew's college graduation, but thanks to modern technology, we go to watch it live via the internet!  Later in the day, after the snow was cleared and our path made straight, we made good on our St. Nicholas day gift and went to go see "The Hobbit".  Having never read the book (I know, I know) I thought it was good.  My children, and even my hubby, on the other hand were mostly disappointed.  

Sunday brought another day of changed plans which allowed us to stay home; not a bad thing by any means.  It was frigid outside so we stayed in and made pizzas and watched "A Muppet Christmas Carol", which is always a favorite.  Having just done "A Christmas Carol" with our theater troupe, it was funny to think of our friends as Muppets.

Today we dashed out the door to go to Mass, in fact we were even a few minutes ahead of schedule, only to find out that an interior light had been left on in the van and so it wouldn't start.  Ugh.  That meant two people had to stay home, the rest of us jumped in the small car and made it by the first reading.  Some day we will be ahead of the game.

Once back home, Mr 13 yo and I had a quick lesson on how to use a battery charger/starter to start the car.  By the time we were done, we were both a bit frozen.  Getting it started, however, allowed me to go out later in the day and finish my Christmas shopping...or so I thought.  I showed the family a gift I had bought for someone and they all agreed it wouldn't fit so back to the store I go.  SO CLOSE....


We were discussing reading the classics last night at dinner so after the meal I went and pulled a few that I had from high school off of the shelf.  I had remembered reading "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck and vaguely remembered it was a good book, so I sat down last night and finished it in about 2 hours (it's pretty short).  I remembered correctly - it was a good book.  So many important lessons in there that I'm encouraging all my older kids to read it.  I kept thinking "lottery ticket" instead of "Pearl of the World".  


I can't believe it is time for the O Antiphons already.  Christmas, as my younger kids keep reminding me, is just around the corner.  Time to figure out when we're going to get to confession!  There's just too many of us to go before Mass on Sunday or in that half hour on Saturday.  Our parish has confessions after the morning Mass, but Mass is at 8 and it is 25 minutes away. I think, however, that that might be our only option.  Nothing like a good confession to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas.

God Bless!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 13


It was so nice to be able to have a day with really no agenda other than getting to the grocery store before the snow comes.  I even had time to make a cover for a pillow for the Living Room.  Last night I redid the piano bench cover with some material that actually matches the decor (if you can call our eclectic mix of furniture "decor") in the room and had enough to try a pillow cover.  After I sewed it together wrong, ripped out all of the seams and then sewed it back the right way, I must say it looks good; and it was super easy (despite the fact that I sewed it together with one side the wrong way).   Then I went to the grocery store along with everyone else who lives within 20 miles of the store.  Ugh.  It took awhile, but the deed is done - at least for this week.


Our local Catholic bookstore is closing at the end of the month.  I've been thinking a lot about Anita, the owner, as she's been through so much.  Her husband died suddenly a few years ago and she and her daughter and son-in-law have struggled with running the store since then.  Running a Catholic bookstore is hard enough economically speaking, but without the driving force behind it, it has been very difficult on them.  Join me in praying for them as they try to sell off all of their inventory and close down.


Happy Feast of St. Lucy!  

In my inbox today I received another Advent Bible Verse from a friend and it made me chuckle.  I know, not what it should have done, but you have to laugh when auto type makes mistakes like this:
"All things work together for good for those who love the Lord." Woman's 8:28

It's nice to receive Bible verses in your inbox.  Is there somewhere you can subscribe to so that you get them daily?  If not, someone should start one.

God Bless!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 12


Today we wrapped our last big order of soap while sitting by a nice fire and watching "Home Alone".  It seems that I have been a neglectful mother and have never had the children watch this movie.  Not for any particular reason, mind you, it just never came up...that I can remember.  So while we basked in the various scents of the soaps and listened to the crackle of the fire, we laughed along as Kevin outwitted the robbers.  

We also finished up the majority of our school work for the month.  Some minor stuff will get done next week, but many of the kids finished chapters or books so it seems like a good place to stop.  We'll pick up again in January.


A bit of a lull on the "mind" front today.  Isn't that okay once in awhile?  Praying for a friend of ours whose daughter had an MRI today because she's had some odd symptoms.  Also praying for Courtney who has had multiple seizures today.  


Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Our Lady is the patroness of our homeschool group and so we have a big place in our hearts for her and this feast day.  The past couple of years a friend of ours would host a gathering after Mass with Mexican hot chocolate and bread, but alas it was not to be this year so we ran to the store to get some of our own and had our own little gathering at home.  What a great patroness for the Americas, too.  I was thinking that our country could use something miraculous like this right about now.  I mean, millions of pagans converted after this apparition and they stopped their human sacrifices!  How wonderful would that be to have happen in the good ole US of A.  Well, until then I guess we just keep praying!  

God Bless!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 11


Well, I thought I was done yesterday with those photos but they required some additional sorting before I could upload them.  They are officially being uploaded as I type.  *YIPPEE* for real this time!

We got a bit of snow early this morning so some of the kids and I took shovels in hand and cleared off part of the driveway.  We have a really long driveway so we were only able to do parts of it before we 1. got too cold and 2. got too tired.  After that we were all ready to go with our school work.

Tonight marks the first basketball practice of the season for Mr 13 yo and Ms 10 yo.  It is her first year so we're looking forward to seeing how she does.


I am participating in a thing where you email a Bible verse to a person and then add your name to the list so that you'll receive some verses, too.  I can't wait to see what my inbox brings.

As I was looking for this one particular verse, I came across another one first.  It kind of jumped off the page at me and I'm so glad it did because I really do like this one!  It's Philippians 4:4-7

  "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I think I might just print that out and hang it up somewhere where I can see it all the time.


See above.  Not only did that get me thinking, it really did a lot to lift my spirits on this cold, winter day.  God is so good to us and if we just follow that still, small voice, He will make sure to guide us when and where we need to be.

You know what else lifted my spirits?  This morning I drove past the gas station and realized that gas prices had gone up 14 cents per gallon since yesterday.  Since I tend to obsess about gas prices, I am SO GLAD that I followed that small voice that told me to fill up our big van YESTERDAY when it was still $3.05.  Little things like that excite me.

God Bless! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 10


Today was a productive day.  I followed the forge ahead protocol and got the Scrooge photos all done and ready to upload.  

Two of the girls and I then spent the evening watching some lame movie called "Christmas Town" while we wrapped and packaged 5 orders of soap.  We are so excited that soap sales have been going so well because that means we're on our way to helping build the St. Gianna Molla Shrine.  It's not too late to place an order!


Totally fried right now after staying on track for so long today.  I keep telling myself that as soon as I get out from under these three big projects I will be able to focus on Advent more.  What do you think the odds are that that will actually happen?


I'm sad to say that Mass this morning was about the extent of the spiritual aspect of my day.  It was a good Mass, mind you, but for the life of me I can't remember what Father talked about!  Oh well, hopefully it is engrained somewhere in my soul :)

God Bless!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 9


I cannot believe that it just took me five hours to do my online Christmas shopping!  Talk about exhausting.  I guess I'm employing the do-it-till-it-gets-done mentality towards my activities today!  Next, on to sort some soap.  I did, however, remember to put my chickens in the oven so we would actually have dinner tonight.  Quite an accomplishment since I didn't remember until about 3:00.


My mind has still been trying to de-stress and stay focused.  I think every year I think the same thing about Advent:  What does it really mean to focus on Advent and not on all the other distractions?  I mean really, if someone has this kind of Advent, the kind that they talk about in books and in homilies on Sunday, could you please outline it for me so that I know what I'm shooting for.  I'm totally serious!


We made it to Mass this morning for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  Happy Feast Day!  It always makes me sad when they remove the obligation on Holy Days.  Is it really that hard to go to Mass two days in a row?  Maybe it is for a small number of people, but I think if people really wanted to go, or really saw the value in going, they would be able to do it a few times a year.  

Adoration tonight!  I will pray for all of you and your intentions.

God Bless!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Daybook Days 7 and 8


This body spent the past two days Christmas shopping with her hubby.  Unfortunately yesterday we were not very successful and our time out was cut short, but we braved the snow, yes snow, here in the Midwest, for the first time this season, to go to a bigger mall and get slightly more done.  At least this time we were able to get in our Christmas dinner date.  We had gotten a gift card to Olive Garden (one of my favorites) and used it tonight on a scrumptious dinner and a yummy piece of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. 


This mind is stressed.  A lot going on here right now that all needs to be done at the same time and it is making my mind feel like it wants to explodes.  Yes, Father gave a homily today about weeding out the distractions that keep us from being with the Lord during Advent, but these are things I can't weed out and so I just need to slug through them in some sort of fashion so they all get done soon.  Maybe I'll just spend an hour at a time on each task and just keep rotating through them.  Which is better?  That, or sticking with one until it is done and then moving on to another one?  


My spirit needs an Advent replenish.  I think it is time to retire to my room and spend some time reading and praying.  Maybe tomorrow will bring a renewed spirit and a clear mind.  Good night, all!

God Bless!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 6


Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!  Happy First Friday!  Happy Baptismal Feast Day to Ms 15 yo!

What is on my agenda for this glorious day?  Blowing my nose, taking a nap, drinking hot beverages, taking a nap and blowing my nose.

What was supposed to be on my agenda for this glorious day?  Grocery shopping, Christmas gift organizing, soap wrapping, dessert planning for this evening.  Oh well, it will all get done either by someone else or on a different day.


Thinking and feeling bad about how I botched a whole bunch of things yesterday.  For example, let's just say that one special kid was missing their candy this morning because somehow I forgot about that one kind.  Don't you just hate when that happens???  DH had to do the shopping for me and I emailed him the list but I forgot to write that one down.  This is precisely why the tooth fairy stopped visiting here a long time ago, because I blew it so many times and felt so horrible about it that it was easier to just hand them the money when the tooth fell out :)  Fortunately for me everyone was good with it.  Don't worry, though, St. Nicholas will be back next year in top form!


On top of the three things I listed at the beginning of this post, the Mass this morning was for my father-in-law.  I felt bad missing it but I just couldn't get myself moving that early today.  Fortunately most of the kids made it, so while I might not have been there in body with the rest of them, I was there in spirit.

God Bless!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 5


My nose has rebelled and is causing me quite a bit of bother today.  Seems I finally caught the head cold that some of the others around here have had already.  I was really hoping to avoid it, but alas, that seems not to be the case.  I am grateful that it is only a head cold as I've heard many others complaining of much worse!  Looks like it's an afternoon on the couch with my Kleenex box and my Scrooge photos.



This awesome song is what has been going through my mind for the past three days.  One of the dances (yes, our director/playwright puts dances in her productions.  It actually makes for a very nice viewing experience; instead of a musical, it's a dancical) from Scrooge, done by a very talented young lady who played the ghost of Christmas future, did a dance to this song.  

Also this:

the new episode of Hope's Cafe.  This was a funny one.


Today both my spirit and my flesh are weak!  We did make it to Mass this morning and Father asked us to think about what type of foundation we are building our spiritual house on.  Will our foundation fall apart at the first sign of adversity?  If so, it is not built on Jesus Christ.  

Praying for some family members who have recently had surgeries as well as many prayer requests that have come through the mom facebook groups I'm a part of.  Always a lot to offer up our sufferings for!

God Bless!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Daybook Day 4


Today I finally got a chance to exercise again.  It seems I do okay for a few weeks then get interrupted for a month.  I started out easy but it felt good to get this old body moving again.  Now, I am tucked up by the fire, with the gloomy weather outside, getting ready to start sifting through the 3,000 (yes really) pictures that I took of "The Conversion of Scrooge" this past weekend.  Fortunately there are a lot of dance shots that I know can be deleted because they are the shots that are building up to the "perfect position" shot.  It will, however, be a very time consuming task.


School this morning consisted of math, though not too many problems today, and a good lesson on the many wars that have been fought because of religious reasons.  

I'm also thinking about how best to tackle the sorting of these pictures as well as how I am going to get them done, continue to work on Christmas shopping and keep up with everything else - all in a timely fashion.


Today at Mass Father pointed out that the first Advent ended with the birth of Christ and we are currently living the second Advent, waiting patiently (or maybe even impatiently?) for the Second Coming.  I hadn't ever really thought of it that way (or at least I didn't remember ever thinking about it that way!) and I like looking at it in that global fashion.  All of the Advents since Christ was born are in anticipation of His coming again. Let us continue to pray out in a loud voice, "Come Lord Jesus, Come!".

God Bless!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Daybook - Day 3


Today is the day I take my annual excursion with my mother to the shopping mall.  We only do this once a year and though it is out of necessity, being that Christmas is coming and all, we do so look forward to it.  An afternoon of frustration as we look for meaningful gifts that don't cost a fortune is topped off by a nice dinner somewhere.  Of course this means another day of not exercising and eating too much, but hey, YOLO!

School started again today which meant that I had to be engaged.  Remembering where we left off in math and phonics and such.  Wow, I'm exhausted.  

Sometimes planning to be gone the whole afternoon is exhausting in and of itself.  Making sure everyone knows what to be doing to keep them busy.  Making sure all the chores will get done.  Making sure that someone is in charge of making dinner and making sure they know what they are doing.  Wow, I'm exhausted again!


We began our day off with Mass - the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the first great Jesuit missionary.  Father talked about how we need to be missionaries to the people of this world and bring joy to those we come in contact with.  I will try to remember this today as I forge my way through traffic and mall people :)

God Bless!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Daybook - Day 2

I just realized that I did this last year but in a different format than I was planning on doing this year.  How exciting it is when you can't remember anything...its like a new idea every time!!


Today I gave my body what it really needed - more sleep.  We had a long day yesterday and everyone was exhausted so we all slept in.  "Slept in" for me meant 7:15.  Sleeping in for some of the others meant that I woke them up at 10:00!  Thank goodness, yet again, for Noon Mass.

I also want to start exercising again before Christmas so we'll see if that happens.  I didn't do it today because I was so tired, and so behind, and besides, my shoulders are still very sore from holding my very heavy camera for the past two days.  I know - excuses, excuses.


Today required thought, which is hard to do when your brain hasn't been jump started yet.  I was forced, forced I tell you, by my aunt to think about Christmas.  She's usually the first one, well, her and my sister-in-law, to bug me about ideas for the kids.  I found out she was originally going to call me early this morning but my mom told her it probably wasn't a good idea.  I got a reprieve until this afternoon!

We've also had some big orders for our soap which necessitated some work on my part.  I'm so excited that people are helping us with our goal to donate money to help build the St. Gianna Molla Shrine!


I really do love Noon Mass because the priest who says it gives wonderfully rich and insightful homilies and then they expose the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration at the end of Mass.  I absolutely love singing "O Salutaris Hostia" and so the chance to belt it out on a regular basis is wonderful.  On the flip side, Noon Mass happens right smack in the middle of the day (in case you were wondering :), and it is a bit farther than some of our other options.  Well, it worked today and Father gave a beautiful homily to start off our Advent.  Of course, I'd share some of it with you if I could remember it (there's that memory thing again - he could give the same homily every day and I'd enjoy it every time because it would seem new to me!).

Before bed each night I read something to meditate on and last night the  thought that stuck with me was that what we do today helps to determine where we will spend eternity.  Now that is something I need to remember!

Have a blessed rest of the day.

God Bless!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keeping Christ in Christmas

I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013 sponsored by the Catholic Bloggers Network. 
Be sure to visit as many links as possible, listed at the bottom of this post.

Keeping Christ in Christmas truly is a challenge in today's world, isn't it?  Try as we might, we still get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the season.  There's always so much to do that it is hard to remember to slow down and pay attention to God in a special way.  To make it even more difficult, this year we only have a bit over 3 weeks.  Ugh!  We've just come off of a very busy week with dress rehearsals and two performances today (Sunday) and now my whirling mind has to switch gears, and switch very quickly at that.

So what will we be doing this Advent season to remind us of what it is all about?  Here are some of our favorite traditions.

* Of course we have our advent wreath setting upon the kitchen table which we light every night at dinner.

* This is our second year of reciting the St. Andrew prayer.  This short prayer is said 15 times every day between the feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) and Christmas Day.  We loved it last year so it's back to stay!

* We usually make some kind of Advent calendar.  It varies from year to year and it hasn't been made yet, so tis all still a mystery as to what shape it will take.

* We made the change years ago and every one seems to agree that the Christmas decorations don't go up until the Sunday before Christmas.  We have various purple things around the house to signify Advent but that is all.

* At Mass today the priest suggested that we all take a few moments each day during Advent to just be still and be silent so that we might hear what it is God is trying to tell us.  This is always a good suggestion, but more so during this busy time.

* On my blog I've decided to do a Daybook of sorts for the Advent season.  Each day I will be filling in things that I've done in Body, Mind and Spirit.  We'll see how that goes.

So there you have it; a comprehensive list of things that we do in our household to try to keep Christ at the forefront of our season.  I invite you to visit the blogs listed below for more great ideas.  Then please stop back here during the next few weeks to see how things are going.

God Bless!

Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Coffee Moments with Sam     The Light of Hope
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others

Canadian Catholic Mom         Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling   Keep Christ in Christmas
Home to 4 Kiddos        Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith          Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home         Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

Training Happy Hearts            10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Campfires and Cleats How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique's Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas
 Our ABC Life:  An Advent Update

Journey Living: Anno Domini
Life of Fortunate Chances: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Quidquid Est, Est!: Reblog: Advent Posts

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gift Giving Ideas!

As you contemplate your Christmas lists this Black Friday (and beyond) I'd like to remind you of some great items for the people on your list.  It is so hard sometimes to come up with something nice, but useful, for friends and family.  I know I am not good at coming up with ideas for gifts for people, so I appreciate a good list of ideas to help me out.

The first thing I'd like to draw your attention to is The Goat Milk Soap Shop!  

Our all-natural soaps smell great and people really love the fact that they are all-natural and feel and smell so good when you use them.  This time around, however, buying our soap isn't just good for you and the people you're giving it to, but your purchase can help us to make a donation to the Saint Gianna Molla Shrine fund that our parish has.  We are building a pro-life, national shrine dedicated to St. Gianna as a place for people to come and pray and find peace and healing, especially those suffering from the effects of abortion.  We will be donating the proceeds from all sales between now and January 1, 2014 to the Shrine.  Won't you please consider helping out?

Next, is there a homeschooling mom on your list that is struggling with being organized?  Is she wanting a better prayer life or a more organized meal or chore schedule?  Why not get her a copy of "A Plan for Joy in the Home"?  It is a gift that benefits everyone :)

Don't forget that you can order Mystic Monk coffee from the image on my sidebar. That coffee is good all year long, but a definite treat for Christmas time!

Have any music lovers on your list?

Friends of ours put out this CD not too long ago and it would be a great gift for the people in your life who like peaceful, beautiful music.  You can order it from their website!

And finally, don't forget our friends over at Holy Heroes!  They have so many great gifts for kids this Christmas season.  We've loved what we've gotten so far, so why not check them out here.  

Hope this helps you in your Christmas gift-giving discernment.  Just for disclosure purposes, there is one affiliate link, two items that are my own and two that I just want to promote because I like them!  

God Bless!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Theme Thursday - Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  I pray that you all have (had) a joyous, grace filled day.

In the Theme Thursday tradition, here is a picture of the things that I am the most thankful for - my family, of course.

If I could, I would post dozens of pictures of all my relatives and friends and all of the things I am thankful for on this great day.  Since I can't do that, I'll make a(n abbreviated) list:

My parents, brother and extended family
My in-laws 
My faith
our wonderful and supportive group of friends
priests that form us
beautiful liturgies
a warm house with a beautiful yard
food to eat and clothes to wear
cars that still work despite their advanced age and high mileage
jobs for my husband and older kids
the talents that have been given to us
people to celebrate with
people to love me

This is just a very short list!  I try to be thankful every single day for both the good things and those things that do not appear to be so good.  Many times those not-so-good things end up being blessings in disguise.  

So on this day, may the Good Lord bless you and your family abundantly.

Go over to Clan Donaldson to join in being Thankful!

God Bless!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Where Does "Hurry Up" Fit In?

I got up at my usual time this morning and started the daily routine.  About an hour later I started rousing the troops, except that today, after quite a few late nights, no one responded.  I tried again with the same result.  That was when I decided to leave them be and that Noon Mass would be a fine alternative to the morning I had planned.

Since I had some time to myself I was checking out a few new things on the ole internet when I came across a post about how one woman gave up saying "hurry up".  Now I believe that I am the queen of hurry up because I probably say it in between every other word that I utter.  Had the troupes actually gotten up this morning I'm sure I would have said it at least 10 times as we tried to get out the door.

After reading, and still having the house to myself, I started thinking about what it would be like to not have to say that at all.  By that I mean, what if you never rushed around and just went with the flow, being present to every minute.  I know this is the opposite extreme and after a short time I realized that it is not very realistic.  At some point in your life you have to realize that there are time constraints, that you do need to be at a certain place at a certain time.  Teaching your children these things is important because always being late because you didn't want to rush imposes on other people and other places in a way that is not good.

So where does "hurry up" fit in? Here are some ways that I think can help to eliminate the need for saying these words so often that they become blocked out!

* Being organized goes a long way towards eradicating the need for these words.  As the mom, if I'm not on top of my game, why would my kids be?  If I'm doing something last minute that doesn't really need to be done, then why won't my kids be.  Darn those kids!  They sure to learn what they see, don't they? 

* Just because I'm organized, however, doesn't mean everyone else in the house is!  Teaching the kids to be organized ahead of time (having things ready the night before, putting away their clothing and shoes so they can find them the next day, etc) is another big help. 

* Realizing that there are times that really aren't as "time-sensitive" as you think they are.  Sometimes there is a little wiggle room in the schedule, or it isn't a big deal if you wait an additional 5 minutes to "smell the roses".  See these for what they are, a gift, and forgo the urge to hurry everyone along.

* Find a different way to get your point across instead of just using the same old, exasperated sigh of "Hurry up or we are going to be late!".  To get us going in the morning, either my daughter or myself has started walking through the house giving 5 minute warnings:  "Five minutes.  Time to get shoes and coats on!"  This has helped immensely (except for the days that everyone tunes those out, too!).

* Sometimes you just have to leave that straggler who refuses to get their act together behind (assuming, of course, that they are old enough to be left behind!).  Do this a few times and I think they'll start to be a bit more accountable.

In summary, I really do think that there are proactive things that can be done to let go of that urge to always hurry everyone along.  Teaching the kind act of being on time is an important one, but, as I've learned, constantly yelling "hurry up" is not the way to teach that lesson!  My biggest thing right now is to stop and think about what I say and ask myself whether it really needs to be said or not.  My knee-jerk reaction is to grumble and hurry, but I bet that if I gave it some thought, I'd realize that quite often I don't need to do that.

Sometimes I get frustrated when my plan changes, but this morning I realized that it was okay to let everyone chill and it ended up being a profitable morning all around.  I hope you have a great, un-hurried day!

God Bless!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

St. Gianna Molla Shrine Dinner

I had the awesome opportunity to be the photographer for another wonderful fundraising dinner this past weekend.  Our parish is out to build a national shrine to St. Gianna Molla on our parish property.  The shrine will feature a beautiful life-size statue of Gianna and the oldest three children.  It will be a pro-life shrine and a place of peace and healing for those who have lost children or are suffering from a past abortion.

The dinner was held in our wonderfully transformed and beautifully decorated parish hall.
We've never done a formal sit-down dinner before, so a lot of planning and help went in to pulling this off.  Fortunately, we have a master chef and a restaurant owner as parishioners so that was a major help.

My hubby got to be a waiter and had a great time doing it.  Lookin' good :)

Drew Mariani from Relevant Radio gave the keynote address and he did a great job.  He talked about prayer and how we need to have complete faith and trust in Him.  He's had some awesome experiences and told a lot of interesting stories.

As I said, we haven't ever done anything like this before, so the task of feeding 200 people with a non-professional wait staff in a timely fashion was a bit daunting.  Everyone did a great job and, other than one minor incident, everything went off without a hitch.

Here's the chef torching the dessert.  I just love his devious little grin!  I am so bummed that there wasn't any of this creme brulee left over because it is one of my favorites and boy did it look delicious. 

The artist who designed and is making our statue came down from Canada to be with us.  He gave an interesting talk on why he designed it the way he did.  You can see part of it on the screen in the background and in the foreground, he is holding a print he did of St. Gianna that was getting auctioned off. 

One of the highlights of the evening had to be when our pastor got up on stage to auction off a dinner he and the other two priests from our parish will be bringing to the lucky winner's home.  They aren't cooking this Mexican fiesta, but they are bringing it, serving it and providing the entertainment.  They got a pretty good price for it, too!

It was a great night and I'm pretty sure they did a good job raising money for the project.  If you'd like more information about the shrine, or maybe even would like to donate to it, you can go here.

I am so grateful to have opportunities like this.  It is so fun to be able to take so many pictures and rub elbows with important people!  I thank God for this gift that He has given me and hope to continue to use my talents in His service.

God Bless!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coffee Woes

Oh coffee, how does thou frustrateth me?  Let me counteth the ways.

I never used to like coffee.  It took my husband most of our 25 years of marriage to even get me to drink it.  Now, however, I look forward to that cuppa in the morning and then again around 4:00 pm.  I can't drink fully caffeinated coffee because then I get all jittery so I usually brew about 50/50, or sometimes 60/40 if I feel like living on the wild side.

Lately, however, I have had a HORRIBLE time finding decaf coffee.  Our usual brand seems to be no more.  I've looked at other brands and if they have decaf at all it is usually hazelnut (gag!!).

Oh, but I forgot one important thing.  My husband has always preferred to grind his own beans instead of buying ground coffee and ever since my daughter told us this story, I can't even stomach the thought of ground coffee.

Apparently a patient at the office she works at has a brother-in-law that kept having a reaction to something he was either eating or drinking.  He went through extensive food and allergy testing and they didn't discover anything that jumped out at them, but after even further testing, discovered he was allergic to cockroaches.  After even further digging and questioning, they discovered that it was his coffee that was causing him problems and that since he was drinking ground coffee, and apparently it is a known fact that coffee beans sit around on the warehouse floor and get scooped up and ground up without picking out the cockroaches, that it was the cockroach pieces in his coffee grounds that were causing his allergic reaction.

Okay, so I go to the store and look for my decaf and all I see are ground coffee options and my stomach turns.  I know, the same thing goes for coffee ordered out, but there's something about grabbing for that bag first thing in the morning to measure out the grounds and wondering just how many insect parts per tablespoon you are consuming.

Therefore, I will continue my quest for whole bean decaf coffee, even if it means I have to order it online and have it delivered to my house; or maybe drive far to find it.  Maybe it isn't even a true story and we don't need to worry about it at all. Sorry if I've grossed you out.

Time to go grind my beans for that afternoon cup - where I can guarantee you that no bug parts will be included.

God Bless!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reacting Later is the Goal

How do you react to things?  Let's say you get an email that gets your blood pressure to rise.  Maybe your kids refuse to listen to a thing you say all day.  How about hearing that someone has been saying false things about you.

Do you immediately fly off the handle?  Do you type that volatile email and send it right back?  Do you bite the next kid to disobey's head off? 


Do you sit back and take a deep breath before you respond?

I can tell you that I do not do the latter and it has come to my attention through prayer and discernment that because of that, I am seeing this common trait in most of my children.  It's kind of like a Catch 22.  They misbehave so I react and then they react because that's what I've trained them to do through my reacting.

A vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

If you react like this, have you ever tried not to?  If you have, you realize how incredibly hard it is to do.  Most of the time the words are out of my mouth before I even realize that I spoke them.  Many times I send a response in an email and realize that if I had just thought through the situation I would have responded differently.  Ugh, what to do?

This sounds like something good to work on during the upcoming Advent season.  I spoke to a priest about it and his advice was to ask for very specific help from the Lord each day and to realize that we cannot depend on our own abilities to conquer, or even subdue, things like this.

Total dependence on God; humility when we fall; slowing down so that there is time to think.  These are the things that will help me to even come close to remembering to stop and think before I react.

What about you?  Have you had this problem and if so, have you come close to dealing with it?  If so, how?

God Bless!