My Sunday Best: Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and happy new year! Christmas and family have taken precedence over blogging lately, and “blogging more” isn’t top of my new year’s resolutions list, but I’ll still pop on from time to time. We had a nice, quiet Christmas at home, and my teacher husband was off for practically three weeks, because of snow days just after new years.

We snuggles, played with new toys, watched Christmas movies, and spent a few days not doing much (I recovered from a nasty bout of flu) at my parent’s house.

The big bummer to the new year was saying goodbye to our cat on January 2. He had a fast growing lymph cancer and we had to put him down. He was only nine, and had been with us from the beginning of our marriage, so it was very hard.

Staying home and limiting Christmas activities to Church liturgies (while avoiding loud and busy kid’s activities) really helped us have a peaceful Christmas. We also limited toys significantly this year, and next year I think we’ll do even less, considering how much they get from relatives.

A special memory this year was singing carols while my husband played the piano, a tradition I hope we continue. Christmas eve brunch with grandparents was also a big success!

Sorry about the Christmas recap. Here’s my Sunday best; a very old standby! Its been very cold here in Virginia, but luckily it was warm in church because this outfit isn’t meant for 22 degree weather! We’ve been inside a lot, but getting some house projects done, including bathroom fixes and painting. Today, we started looking at dining room paint colors. How can their be so many shades!?!

We’re celebrating Christmas until Presentation, which is also a good excuse for still having decorations up! Glad to be back with Rosie’s link up in the new year!

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My Sunday Best: Advent II

“Pray the our hearts may be the crib Our Lady chooses for her Baby.”
St Teresa of Calcutta

Repent. Empty your arms. Let go of all the other things and pray that your heart is filled with Christ.

These words of the priest today reminded me of this beautiful Mother Teresa quote I came across earlier this week.

We had our first snow this past weekend. The kids went outside every few hours and enjoyed it, but sadly there wasn’t much.

I’m getting out my old winter standby clothes I’ve had for years. Theresa’s new purple dress is much prettier!

Bit late, but I’m linking up with Rosie!

What I Learned This Fall

Thanks to my friend Laurel over at Muffin Dome, I discovered a new blogger this fall: Emily P. Freeman.  Her podcast is my new favorite listen in the evening, and her wisdom about “creating space for your soul to breath” is exactly what I need to hear right now.  Her seasonal “what I learned” sheets have been working well for me, as I attempt to be a bit more reflective and thoughtful about my life.  Joining her linkup for the first time.

Here are eight things I have learned this Fall:

  1. “When once we begin to form good resolutions, God gives us every opportunity of carrying them out.”  St. John Chrysostom
  2. After attending a Called and Gifted workshop, I will be discerning the charisms of mercy and hospitality.
  3. I made my first double crust, traditional apple pie.
  4. As I detached from the frenetic pace of being a work-from-home mom, I have been able to slow down and enjoy playing with my children.img_7657
  5. The power and real graces from the sacrament of Confession, especially to help me forgive those who have wronged me.
  6. God freely and lovingly can bestow any grace, even unlooked for and unasked for graces.  This fall, I enjoyed the season.  I was constantly noticing the beauty of the changing leaves, the brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine, and the smells of falling leaves.  I have never particularly liked the season of fall, and since the September our daughter died, its been a season of grief.  But this year, it was a real and beautiful grace to enjoy the season.    img_8875
  7. 10 Year College Homecoming was THE BEST!  It was so much fun to see friends after many years.  Everyone in my class, whether I had been close friends with them or not, was friendly and kind and interested in how we were doing.  It was great to catch up with people I don’t regularly keep in contact with.  And the college put on a great weekend, with lots of good food, beautiful dinner, fireworks and a special dance.
  8. Thanksgiving hosted in our own home, with our parents there, was a peaceful and happy experience.

 

 

My Sunday Best: Advent Begins

“Advent is here. What a marvelous time in which to renew your desire, your nostalgia, your real longing for Christ to come — for him to come every day to your soul in the Eucharist. The Church encourages us: He is about to arrive!” 
-St. Josemaria Escriva

This first Sunday of Advent found my hiding in my room, stuffing myself with the kids’ St. Nicholas Day chocolate.

Our daughters.  WAIT!  The last one’s not ours!!!

Not the peace day of joyful preparation that I had planned.  We went to my parents’ house on Saturday to enjoy the downtown Christkindlmarkt with them.  By 7 o’clock I was too tired to make the hour and a half drive home (hubby stayed home to write papers), so we stayed overnight.  Meaning we had to drive home this morning, get ready for church, and attend a later Mass.  The whole day was thrown off and the girls were extremely whiny and grumpy in church.

 

A frustrating fact of life with kids is that out of the ordinary days, when they get to do lots of fun stuff, tend to lead to overtired and grumpy children, and miserable parents.  The kids did have lots of fun yesterday, especially enjoying the magic show and Irish dancers performance.  Today, though, was rough.

Nonetheless, we made it to Mass for the First Sunday of Advent. (Time to wear my old purple dress, the Advent and winter standby.)  We lit the first candle of the Advent wreath. (When I realized that although I bought candles last year, I had no idea where they were after the move, thank goodness for Amazon Prime, that delivered them this morning to my doorstep.)  My mom passed on our hand sewn Nativity Advent calendar, which I’m excited to share with my own children this year.  We decorated the tree and watched Rudolph.

Hopefully, these are the memories that my children will remember; not the frazzled and stressed mother, who would dearly love the gift of a few quiet hours to herself.

I’ve been thinking of this post all day, ever since I was hiding in my room with chocolate Santas.  I kept thinking I should find some lesson in the day, a way this First Sunday of Advent was somehow an adequate beginning of the Advent season.  But it wasn’t.  I kinda blew it.  But maybe that is the lesson.  Humility.  On my own, I cannot prepare and persevere patiently for our Savior’s birth.  Today was a reminder of how much I need Jesus this Advent season.  Only He can prepare my heart, and bring the peace that will allow me to patiently and joyful celebrate the season of His birth.

Check out the other Advent posts over on Rosie’s blog!

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Grace, age 6

Our beautiful, growing Gracie turned six this week.  Her birthday was a fun-filled day, beginning with a special breakfast of waffles, then we went to Mass and also had a tour of the Sacristy.  We went back for a birthday blessing from our favorite priest, and he showed us the safe with the gold vessels and a huge closet with a motorized dry-cleaners rack with probably over a hundred vestments!

At home, one of our friends and her little daughter visited in the morning, then we worked on a science project and had a video chat with cousins.  Grace opened her presents from the Texas relatives and was thrilled with her first watch!  We had homemade pizza for dinner, a few more presents and birthday cake.  At her request, she had a Dinotrucks birthday cake, which was a total hit because it featured two Dinotruck figures which she immediately announced were new her favorite toy!  She also received a clock for her room (learning to tell time is the theme for this birthday).

Looking at her birthday picture, I am amazed at how mature she looks these days, and continue to be impressed by her new skills and interests.  It seemed like she was a baby and toddler for a long time, perhaps longer than some other kids her age we know, but now she is growing into a beautiful girl, who is become a competent helper, quick learner, and imaginative child.

The perfect Dinotrucks cake.  Except for the Lego that caught on fire.

Looking back over the past year, Grace has been a busy bee and has had lots of new experiences.  In February we took a plan ride (her second) down to Texas, and she had so much fun with her cousins, and even got to hold this bird when we visited the Dallas Zoo.

Dallas Zoo- February

In April, we had a fun Easter trip to Orlando, Florida.  At the Lego store, she made her first Lego creation.  Since then, she has become much more interested in building with Legos, drawing, crafting and creatively making things herself.  Since the girls got bunk beds, a favorite game is “tent”, with blankets over the bunk, and “boat” which involves blankets all over the floor!

Legoland, Orlando- April

Last spring Gracie participated in her first dance recital, with an adorable ballet routine.  Going to ballet class increased her confidence and listening abilities, and she enjoyed it immensely.

First ballet recital- May

Since June, when we moved to Fredericksburg, Grace has been more helpful and independent then ever.  She plays on her swingset or in the driveway, checks the mail, corrals her little sisters, and wants to help with everything.  From washing dishes to planting flower bulbs, cleaning and vacuuming to raking leaves, its amazing to have a child independently doing some of the chores around here.

Soap Box Derby, Fredericksburg – June

Another area Grace has made great strokes is swimming and water confidence.  We had more opportunities this summer to visit pools and the beach, and Grace has been doing great in the water.  She still loves the beach and playing in the sand too.  She also enjoyed her first sailing trip in Annapolis this summer, although the water was very calm!

Sailing Trip, Annapolis- August

Although she frequently argues and complains about Theresa, they love being together.  My favorite is when Grace “reads” to Theresa, or they are both happily playing together. And of course, Grace adores Cecilia.  She takes care of her like a little mother, and has begun giving her piggy back rides!

“Reading” to her sister.

Grace is still a very talkative and social child.  She loves going places, even just grocery shopping, and being with other people.  She easily gets very silly and excited, and can laugh and laugh and laugh over her own silliness.  She also instigates her sisters to be very silly.  Her enthusiasm for just about everything is a joy to see, and she reminds epitomizes childlike joy at the world around her.

Performing with the puppet she made. September

Grace also loves Jesus and Mary and going to church.  She faithfully says her prayers, prays every time she sees a cemetery or emergency vehicle when we’re driving around, and wants to sit in the front at church (which doesn’t usually happen).  She keeps talking about receiving Holy Communion, but that won’t be until she is seven.  Recently, we have been making friends with one of the parish priests (who was in seminary with my husband) and now she is very excited to see him every time we go to Mass.  On her birthday, we went to the sacristy to receive a birthday blessings, and this priest showed us the gold Mass vessels, as well as a huge room with an electronic rack with the hundreds of vestments the parish owns!  Now, she keeps wanting to go to the “priests’ house” (the sacristy:) again!

Helping with Christmas cards. November

Grace is very verbally and physically loving and affectionate, she brings so much joy and laughter into our home, and reminds us to play and spend time together.  I am so thankful for my precious Grace from God, and looking forward to seeing her continue to grow into a beautiful girl.

Birthday questions (borrowed this from Rosie at A Blog for My Mom.)

1. What is your favorite color? Blue and purple and pink.

2. What is your favorite toy? Claire (doll)

3. What is your favorite fruit? Pumpkins. No, clementines.

4. What is your favorite television show? Dinotrucks

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Sandwich

6. What is your favorite outfit? Fuzzy pants

7. What is your favorite game? Dominoes

8. What is your favorite snack? Apples and cheese

9. What is your favorite animal?

10. What is your favorite song? vowels jingle we are learning

11. What is your favorite book? Charlotte’s Web

12. Who is your best friend? Aurelia, Theresa (sister), and Mom 🙂 Or Daddy.

13. What is your favorite cereal? Frosted shredded wheat and Cheerios

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play with everyone, play games, play on playset.

15. What is your favorite drink? Lemonade

16. What is your favorite holiday? Easter (because we sing Allelulia) and Christmas

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Claire

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Pizza and chocolate cake

20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Be a doctor.

Bonus: What’s your favorite vacation place? “Allelulia! I want to go to Florida!”

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The Lost Art of the RSVP

With the holidays upon us, I have had occasion to experience anew a baffling and troubling habit of our society.  I am calling it the “lost art of the RSVP.”

Let’s set the scene.  A mom of several children decides to host a Christmas party for the other moms and kids they know.  She enjoys parties and isn’t doing it out of a sense of obligation or pressure.  She creates and hands out printed invitations for a weekday afternoon, a time likely to be less busy than a night or weekend.  Then she plans a menu, simple food but with lots of kids you have to make plenty.  She prepares a few activities to keep the kids busy, and of course, spends hours cleaning her house.

She puts an RSVP date on the invitation, but as that date draws near, she has only heard from two or three women.  At least one of those says “maybe.”  Eventually, she starts texting the other invites, asking if they are coming.  “We’ll try” is the most common response, followed by no response at all.  A couple of people explain their families long list of foods they don’t eat, starting with refined sugar, and suggest they can’t come unless you have gluten free/paleo/vegetarian options.  After several days of cleaning, baking and preparing for this party, with her kids excited too, the day arrives.

One person is on time.  Two more are late.  The rest, who said “probably” or “maybe” or even “yes”, don’t show up.  They don’t text that day or anytime afterwards.  Later, the hostess might find out they were shopping, or at the park.  While it was nice to have those few guests over, it was hardly the party she spent so much time, energy and even money, planning.  It was just a glorified play date, with lots of left-over food.  Not to mention all the special foods she prepared for those with special requests, several of whom didn’t show up anyway.

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Inviting a person to one’s home should be an occasion for generous and joyful hospitality and fellowship, an enjoyable holiday experience to bless one’s friends, where we request the pleasure of another’s company.  Instead, inviting others to our home has become an “option if nothing better comes along,” an occasion where attending becomes a favor to the hostess.  Often she must pursue the guests for responses, and almost beg some to come so that there’s more than one person coming, so that all her hard work and generosity will be worth it.  All this, because she wishes to bless those around her.

What has happened to the beauty of hospitality?  Why is it that opening our home to others, instead of being met with gratitude, has become on occasion for neglect, rudeness, thoughtlessness, and downright rejection?  Why are we so unwilling to respond politely and to commit wholeheartedly, and instead hold out for something better?  Why are people too busy to enjoy each other’s presence, but instead prioritize only themselves, or default to whatever requires little effort?

These situations happen all throughout the year, and have become so common that they are made light of.  What used to be common courtesy has apparently become an extraordinary act of virtue, which few seem to practice.  But why does this happen?  All the time, I hear people, especially moms, complain that they are lonely, isolated, friendless.  Yet when offered hospitality and friendship, they don’t have time for it.  Many don’t even have time politely decline.

In our modern age, when répondez s’il vous plaît requires no more than a quick text message, why do so few extend this common courtesy to others?  Everyone’s lives are “so busy,” and people are quick to complain when they are not “treated well,” but where is the respect for other’s time and feelings?  Sadly, this lack of manners and kindness cannot be blamed on secular culture, as everyone I know who has done this to me has been a Christian.

This Advent and Christmas season, let’s try to practice the “art of the RSVP.”  Let us see invitations for what they are: an act of generous hospitality on the part of another.  Let’s try to respond promptly and politely, either yes or no, not maybe.  Let our yes be a commitment (barring sickness, etc.), and let us do our best to arrive on time to events.  If you feel lonely or isolated, take advantage of opportunities for fellowship!  Be open to friendship and then cultivate those relationships that attract you.  Reciprocate hospitality.

Finally (I say this for myself more than anyone) let us have the courage to continue offering, to continuing being vulnerable and opening our hearts and home for hospitality.  Each of us has much to give, but in the giving we leave ourselves open for rejection and pain.  So let’s pray for the grace to keep trying, to keep seeking until we find others who wish to build a community based on courtesy, generosity, and gratitude.

Matthew 22:1- 10 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.