Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmases past

Here's a Christmases past photo essay:

Christmas 2002

in England

~Christmas Day 2003~

Our first Christmas back in Colorado after England

~Christmas 2004~

~Christmas 2005~

~Christmas 2006 and record snowfall!~

~Christmas 2007~

(taken on Epiphany, January 6, 2008)

~Christmas 2008~

(this Christmas!)

Happy 7th day of Christmas!

I caved and decided to accede to my kids' requests and we're having a few friends over on New Year's Day. The house ain't House Beautiful, but it's warm, so we're going to celebrate the day with family and friends.

We took a studio portrait yesterday...not the picture perfect one I had in mind, but my guess is a few years down the road I'll look at it and smile.

I still have to write that Christmas New Years' letter, but maybe I'll get to it once the college kids go back to school.

Five more days of Christmas left!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas guilt and blessings

I tend to have high expectations of myself and how our family is going to celebrate holidays. I've read so many wonderful books about celebrating the liturgical year and bringing the faith alive to your kids and I want to try it all. I would love to be able to do more of these things, but life and grocery shopping too often cut into my time. I was thinking about some of the things I wanted to do this Advent but didn't do for various reasons. For example:

The Jesse tree and ornaments stayed in the box. The nativity scene didn't even make an appearance until December 24th!

The Christmas cards are still in their boxes and the first draft of the Christmas letter is still on the computer, unsent.

I didn't make homemade gifts for all the kids' teachers, neighbors, friends and relations. I hardly made any homemade gifts at all!

I didn't get together with my friend who plays the viola, as we had planned to have a string trio or quartet for Christmastime.

I didn't even wrap some of my Christmas gifts until the afternoon of Christmas Day!

We haven't gotten all the kids together yet for the traditional Christmas photo op. Hoping to do so on Sunday.

Haven't planned the annual Christmas week/New Year's open house and it don't look like it will happen this year unless I get some lightning bolt of inspiration from heaven above.

On the other hand, there were some very good things that happened this Advent, among them:

We were able to get to daily Mass quite frequently this Advent, and everyone was able to get to confession before Christmas.

We were able to reign in the Christmas gift-buying this year and tone down expectations for Santa's generosity. This alone accounted for far less stress and more enjoyment of the holiday.

We were able to buy a beautiful tree for far less than we had spent in previous years. It looks lovely and smells marvelous.

We were able to eat dinner together most nights and say our Advent prayers together, which was also a huge thing for us as most nights we are going different directions with so many evening activities.

We are all together, safe, healthy and happy and for this we are truly thankful!

Friday, December 26, 2008

On the second day of Christmas...

My tummy still feels full from yesterday's sumptuous repast. And my brain feels somewhat squishy too. Wondering if those words are spelled correctly and my spellchecker says "no misspellings found".

Anyhoo, (wonder if that's spelled correctly?) We had a great Christmas feast with all ten kiddos home, two grandmas and one grandpa, one boyfriend and his sister, which (if you're counting) totals 17.

The prime rib, which worried me endlessly, since I don't normally spend that amount of money on a piece of meat, turned out splendidly, if you enjoy really red meat dripping blood. Well, I do, so everyone else better enjoy it too! And I dug up fresh horseradish from the winter-frozen garden to complement the meat. The Cabernet Sauvignon from Balistreri Vineyard was stunning with the meat. We also had garlic mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus with butter-lemon sauce, fresh green beans (the skinny French kind), fruit salad, dinner rolls, and my mom's delicious corn souffle. I made three pies (chocolate pecan, mincemeat, and an apple-cranberry thing I made up), light AND dark fruitcake, all topped with freshly whipped cream.

Any wonder, then, that I felt so full, I thought I would explode last night?

And I still feel full this morning. The bathroom scale says I should exercise more (at least that's how I interpret the numbers) and my stomach says, "weak tea and toast, please."

But, it's the eldest daughter's 21st birthday today, so a celebrating, we will go. We plan to walk the dog first, then spend time talking about used cars (her car recently went kaput), visiting Balistreri for some adult wine tasting and ending the day by taking her and her boyfriend out to dinner. (Salad, anyone?)

Happy feasting to one and all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Blessed Virgin Mary in England--out in print!

Check out this new book, volume 1 of The Blessed Virgin Mary in England, by Brother Anthony Josemaria, FTI.

Brother Anthony contacted me while we were living in England, after reading one of my articles about visiting a shrine in England. We were able to collaborate a little, though my contributions will appear in Volume 2, which, I understand is still at the printers.
It looks like a wonderful book of meditations on the Blessed Mother, particularly her role as England's dowry. Congratulations on completing your fine work, Br. Anthony!
Ave Maria!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blessed objects for sale at Walmart

While perusing my local Walmart today, near the toy aisle I happened upon the above air freshener for sale. I noticed it was a rather attractive ceramic/plastic-looking image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, (whose feast day is tomorrow). What really caught my eye, after the $1.97 price tag (I'm still surprised how cheap everything at Walmart is...but that's another blog posting), is the wording on the packaging. If you can't read the image, I'll quote it for you here:

"Formally blessed by a Catholic priest."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong...but isn't Walmart guilty of the sin of simony?

Friday, December 05, 2008

St. Nicholas' Day

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Nicholas.

My kids love putting their shoes outside their doorways the night before and waking up to shoes full of treats. He usually leaves them something of chocolate and an orange or tangerine. I love it because it is a low-key way to emphasize the origins of Santa Claus.

For more information on the saint and celebrating his feast day, check out the St. Nicholas Center.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Early Christmas Present

Who says cousins can't get along?
I just wanted to share this picture. I found it online and I was wondering if anyone knows who the artist was or any more information? I find it enchanting!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catholic response to the movie Twilight

I still don't get it! Some folks...okay, some females are stark raving crazy a go-go over Twilight and it's male lead, Robert Pattinson, who plays the "vegetarian" vampire, Edward Cullen. Again...I just don't get it. He's not even cute in my book. He's creepy.

But, my 13 year-old daughter has already read all the books. And spent the summer talking about them with her friends. And she really, really, REALLY wanted to see the movie. So, I asked an adult friend whom I trust and who had read the books (and liked them), and saw the movie (and liked it), if she thought the movie was too violent? She said, "no," so I decided to let 13 year-old daughter see the movie with two of her friends. Her 15 year-old brother came along just for fun. (His decision).

The consensus was: the girls liked loved the movie, and my son thought the previews were pretty cool. (Pride kept him from admitting he wasted 7 of his own dollars).

I liked what The Wall Street Journal film critic, Joe Morgenstern said:

Attention, all 13-year-old female readers of this newspaper: Run, do not walk, to the nearest multiplex playing "Twilight," the screen version of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling potboiler about a principled vampire and the teenage girl who loves him. Others needn't run. Or walk.

Evidently the movie didn't appeal to Joe.

There is a Catholic movie review by Steven Greydanus that sums up the movie and the books. And since I didn't want to waste my time reading the books or watching the movie, I appreciated the work he put into it. You can read it here.

Surprisingly (to me anyway), there are a large number of moms who are all a ga-ga over Edward/Robert. They have their own website...


mugs...bumper name it.

By the way...if you haven't yet read Steven Greydanus's review, please do it now. It will explain that second t-shirt, which all of us should find quite alarming.

I found this interesting summary on another review page:

"Twilight" really does have an infatuation with surface beauty, especially where the vampires are concerned. It leads to one of the few moments of, possibly unintentional, insight in the film as Edward confesses to Bella that his kind are made to be impossibly beautiful, but it's fake, a lure to trap unsuspecting prey. That sums up "Twilight" pretty well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Guatemala Mom

Our youngest child, DJ, is turning 7 on December 18th. We adopted him when he was 2 years-old, from his native Guatemala. We gave him a new name when we brought him home to his "forever" family. The other day, while we were driving in the car, he was asking me about his "Guatemala mom" and I told him his story about how he came to be in our family. Of course, the story is always told at the level an almost 7 year-old can comprehend.

"Your mom in Guatemala was very poor. She was also very young. Not much older than your sister, Maria. She knew she couldn't feed you or take proper care of you and because she loved you so much, she wanted to give you to a mom and dad who could take good care of you."

That prompted a sorrowful reply from DJ, (heavy sigh): "I want to go see my mom in Guatemala."

"You can do that when you're older, because we can't go right now. But you can pray for your mom in Guatemala."

"I miss my mom in Guatemala!"

"You really never knew your mom in Guatemala. She gave you to a nice foster mother right after you were born."

"I miss my foster mom."

"Well, your mom and dad here love you very much and we are so happy that you're with us," I said, trying to get off the subject. "And do you know why we gave you the name we did?"

When DJ was born, his "Guatemala mom" gave him a very American name, obviously wanting him to fit in to his new culture. But she didn't give him a middle name. Since all our other kids have first, middle and last names, we decided to move his first name to the middle slot and give him a new first name. Both names have special Biblical significance, especially at this time of year, so I told him the story of how he got his names.

(Heavy sigh): "I love you, mom. And I love my names."
"I love you too, DJ."

December Births Remembered

My oldest, who's turning 21 on Dec. 26th, was born on St. Stephen's Day. When I went into labor in the early morning hours after Christmas Day, I knew I was going to have a boy since we had picked out the name Stephen. My husband didn't like the name Stephanie, however. I think he either dated someone by that name or knew someone and didn't like her...anyway, Stephanie was out. So, I was quite surprised when my baby was a girl! We had talked about girl names, so we had some picked out, but I just knew that since I was going into labor on St. Stephen's Day, my child would be a boy!

Shortly after giving birth to Maria (as in three months later!) I found myself pregnant for a second time. My second baby was due on December 26th! Fast forward to the following December. It's 4 days before my due date and my daughter's first birthday. We had just moved into military housing and still had moving boxes piled everywhere. I was on active duty in the Navy and my husband was on shift work for a defense contractor. We had a young child and precious little time to unpack boxes!

On December 22nd, I picked up Maria from her day-care provider. As soon as she came in the house she threw up on my expensive Pakistani wool rug. I had a very bad feeling as I cleaned up the mess. Within a few hours, my stomach wasn't feeling too good either. Since I was so close to my due date, my husband drove me to the urgent-care clinic at a nearby Air Force base. There was a lot of this sort of stomach virus going around and several people were throwing up. All they could tell me was "don't get dehydrated!" Before we left the urgent-care clinic, my husband had to run to the bathroom to throw up.

We went home and proceeded to throw up all night. Fortunately, there were two toilets near the master bedroom because we were using them both. The next morning I felt much better, but I called in sick to work because I had terrible stomach cramps.

"Were they at regular intervals?" my Navy petty officer asked me.

"Why, yes! They are coming about once every 5 minutes!" I replied. "Maybe they're not stomach cramps after all. Maybe they're contractions!" So I decided to make a hasty trip to the Air Force hospital at Andrews AFB. When they put me on the scale, I had lost 5 pounds from my last prenatal visit. So I guess I was a bit dehydrated, which brought on labor. As soon as they got an IV into me I felt better. My poor husband, who had also been throwing up all night, had to coach me through labor without the benefit of an IV.

Our son, Pier, was born on Dec. 23rd, 3 days before his sister turned one. On Christmas morning, as we waited for the on-call doctor to sign the release papers, we went to morning Mass in the hospital chapel with about a dozen or so others, some of whom were wearing hospital gowns. At least I could put my clothes back on! A friend had given me a cute little Santa suit for my newborn baby to wear on his homecoming. The nurses all thought he was so cute, one of them asked if she could "borrow" him to show him off to some nurses on other floors. I said, "sure," and she whisked him away for about 20 or 30 minutes. My husband, who wasn't there at the time, thought I was crazy letting someone go off with my baby. I fretted until she came back with him.

We came home from the hospital on Christmas Day. We had just moved into military housing three weeks before his birth, so we still had moving boxes everywhere and the Christmas tree, which was propped up in the corner of the room until we could find the Christmas tree stand, was dropping needles like crazy.

A kind-hearted neighbor brought us some Christmas dinner on paper plates, which we ate while sitting on moving boxes. We were so exhausted that evening, that we decided not to try opening Christmas presents until the next day.

So, here's to my first two Christmas babies, who will both be 20 for three days this year! There's a good reason to have babies when you're young!