Thursday, December 23, 2010

We do that every year, too.

This post is continued from December 7, at which point I promised to finish the post in a day or two. Hah! How naive of me! Well, here we are on Day 7 of the O Antiphons and I am finally getting around to it. Don't be fooled isn't because everything else is done...just take a look at that back bedroom. On second thought, no...don't look. 

Advent Wreath
Jotham's Journey around the Advent Wreath
O Come, O Come Emmanuel procession:

These traditions go together and have been my most favorite. This is partly due to the fact that we are consistent with them. Some of the other activities tend to get skipped as Advent winds down and the days get busier. But our Family Time each night is almost always there. 
At about 6:30 each evening, after the dinner dishes are cleaned and the kids have done their night time chores, we gather in the front room at the round table in front of the fireplace. We light the Advent Wreath and begin with either the Magnificat or the Benedictus (we have been working on memorizing the Magnificat this year and now added The Canticle of Zechariah, sometimes called the Benedictus). 
Then we read the chapter from Jotham's Journey. If you haven't heard of this book, you need to check it out. This is our second year reading it. It is the story of a young shepherd boy who ends up separated from his family due to his own disobedience. Throughout Advent you travel with Jotham as he searches for his father and learns of the coming Messiah. He meets real figures from the story of the birth of Christ as he runs from a seriously bad guy, and meets lots of new friends on the search for his family. I edit some of the danger scenes as I is pretty dramatic. But with older children, you wouldn't need to do that. It has been a story that has touched each of us in a different way. 

After the story and a short discussion of what Jotham is learning and what we can glean from his journey, we pray our abbreviated rosary (even more abbreviated than usual). When that is done, we blow out the candles and each of the kids gets their LED candle and lines up for our procession. As I mentioned in my last post, we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel (adding the other verses during each night of the O Antiphons) as we process to our rooms, stopping at the top of "Tepayac Hill" to ask the Lady of Guadalupe to pray for us. The kids put their candles in their window and climb into bed. Blessings, kisses, ipods on to listen to stories or the rosary, and they are usually asleep by 7:30ish.  


St. Nicholas Feast Day gifts:

On December 6th we celebrated St. Nicholas' Feast Day. The night before the kids put their shoes by the fireplace, and in the morning they have candy and usually a gift. In Aberdeen, their gift was a new set of winter mittens, hat and scarf. Those are not needed as much here in California so we chose to start a Fontanini set, with the intention of adding to it over the years (as I said in the first Advent post). 

This year's loot for the Feast of St Nicholas.

Got this idea from a Faith and Family blog post! I love the fact that one of them is winking...didn't notice it when I bought them. 
The Holy Family is watching over their shoes.

Christmas Eve Pajamas

This is a tradition that I had growing up. We used to get pajamas from Grandma Puccio on Christmas Eve. For many years, we also got crocheted slippers from my Great Aunt Frances, Grandma's sister-in-law (they both married Puccio boys). So, we continue that gift giving tradition. I always loved getting into bed on Christmas Eve with crisp new PJ's on. It occurred to me as I grew that there was also the advantage of looking fresh and cute for Christmas morning pictures -- no holey t-shirts for the all-important pose with gifts. 

Toys and Sibling gifts

We have never really done the Santa thing. It hasn't been a big master plan, nor has it been borne of some deep moral conviction. We don't get into the Santa wars. It simply boils down to the fact that the story never flowed easily from my head and mouth. I just never got around to weaving the tale and pretty soon it seemed silly to even try. So, they get gifts from us on Christmas morning, and they pick out gifts for each other. 
In addition, we have made an effort to simplify our toy situation over the last few years. Moving as often as we have really brings home the amount of stuff we can accumulate! When you think about the toy industry these days, and how toys are something you can buy any day, anywhere, as opposed to the times a generation or two ago, when toys were purchased at toys stores once or twice a year (Christmas and birthday), or a generation before that when toys were made by hand and a child had one or two, maybe. 
Well, we aren't going back to that time (however tempting it is), but we are making a concerted effort to not add toys to the already generous collection upstairs unless it really suits the child and moves them forward in life, so to speak. 
We have also never done wish lists. We get them what we think they should have. Again---this isn't some sort of "high moral ground", it is simply easier. They let us know what they want, if they have an idea, but ultimately we choose anyway. 

All that to say that this year, they get one main thing from us (in addition to the PJ's on Christmas Eve) and a few small things in their stockings. Also, the each get a shopping day to pick out a gift for eachother (and for Mama and Papa). Starting this year, the sibling gifts have themes (none of which are toys). They will each get a book, a religious gift and some clothes (something from the mind, the soul and the body). Each kid got one of the themes to choose within. The nice thing is that they get something they need, but they get the fun of choosing for their siblings, and unwrapping something for themselves. D and I went book shopping for his sisters (and I snuck one from him in there too). M and I went clothes shopping (and I found her a new winter coat on sale). And A and I went to the Catholic bookstore where she picked out Nativity Scene figures for her siblings (and I found a little donkey for her). 

We have also had a family gift on the Feast of the Epiphany (in years past this was when we got the family computer, or Wii). This year, we got a few old fashioned games (including marbles!). 

The Christmas Tree:
Since our first year of marriage we have had the tradition of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve and having pizza for dinner. I think we have managed that for eight Christmas's so far. This will be the ninth. The only difference this year is that Christmas Day is a traveling day for us so the decorating began yesterday and will be finished on Christmas Eve. Pizza from Costco will be served after Christmas Eve Mass. Not exactly elegant, but simple, and expected. We tend to like "the usual". 

The Baby Jesus Dolls:
Each of our Nativity scenes (we have at least four) and one of our Advent Wreaths has a tiny baby Jesus that spends most or all of Advent hidden in a cupboard. We also have a basket under the tree that we are filling with yellow yarn hay to make a soft bed for Jesus. On Christmas morning, or after Christmas Eve Mass (as we will do this year), all the Baby Jesus Dolls are place in their spots. The most popular in past years was the baby doll in the soft crib under the tree. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes (a baby blanket) and placed in the manger (a box). Two years ago they all looked on in awe. Nobody touched the baby...all through the Christmas season. In the end, I packed him up till the next year. 
Last year, the girls couldn't get enough of him. The dressed as Mary and carried him, cuddled him, sang to him. Even D got into it, dressed as Joseph he carried him off to Egypt. When the Christmas Season ended last year, they couldn't part with Baby Jesus. That doll has been in and out of toy boxes all year. He is never dressed. Always tenuously wrapped in swaddling clothes (a blanket). 
This year, I had to hide him around the beginning of Advent and he will reappear after Christmas Eve Mass. 

This is our Kennedy Family Advent and Christmas so far. I am sure we will shift and change and time goes on, and I know we will sometimes fail to keep up with the plans. 
Each year, we try our best to focus our hearts and minds on... 
"The hour and moment 
in which the Son of God was born 
of the most Pure Virgin Mary. 
At Midnight.
In Bethlehem.
In piercing cold."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Round-up of Posts Swirling Around in my Head

The Mass was celebrated at my house last week....over and over again. Granted, it may not be the real thing, but it is certainly sincere. Once there was a bishop presiding, but usually it was just a priest. There was even a real homily!

It all began with a procession, followed by a brief Liturgy of the Word, read by M-the only real reader in the bunch. She propped up my old bible and read from it. This was followed by the Gospel, complete with Alleluia. Then, six year old, D., the designated priest, preached a homily about Jesus giving His mother to the disciple John from the cross. Father D told us that Jesus meant to give all Christians his mother.

That is exactly how he said it.
Here is our bishop. In this picture he is speaking with Juan Diego on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

This was followed by the offertory in which many plastic plates and cups were brought up, including a Nemo plate that was a big hit with the two Church ladies in attendance (that would be M and A). An abbreviated, yet accurate, Eucharist prayer was said and communion distributed to many imaginary parishioners. A solemn Salve Regina was sung after communion and then a final blessing.

The "Mass" ended with another procession complete with Holy God We Praise Thy Name---or something that sounded very much like it.

Imaginary play just doesn't get any better than this!


M. has been sick with some sort of stomach virus. I naively cling to the hope that it stops with her. We'll see.
You know how kids handle sickness differently. Some are sort of sweet and endearing, others, not so much. M is the sweet type. She smiles and sighs as you comfort her. She rests happily in front of a TV, content to watch a video or two. She has her not-so-sweet moments too, but for the most part M draws you in to her, inviting your sympathy and care. 
In a typical M moment yesterday, she paused to sit on the bottom step. Not wanting to go up to her room, not wanting to venture to the couch, content to sit on the step as long as I sat with her. She leaned on me and sighed.
I was not so content, though, and wanted to get her settled on a chair with a bucket next to her, and "get some things done" (isn't this always in the back of a mother's mind? is mine...sigh!). 
So, in an effort to get moving I asked "What do you want, sweetie?"
Not sure I heard right I asked "Prayer?"
"Pray for me" she says. 
So we prayed part of our Christmas Novena, while she lay her head on my lap. 
She was right. That was what she needed. She carefully got up and walked to the couch to settle in and wait for her stomach to settle...or not. 
Well, that was much better than "getting things done". New lesson learned. 


So, I bravely cut my girls' hair last week. Aren't you proud of me? My mother tells the now famous (in our family) story of cutting my older sister's hair when she was no more than five. Margie's grateful response? "You ruined my life!" 
This is the legacy that I must overcome. 
Last week was about the fourth time that I attempted haircuts at home. The other three times I timidly trimmed centimeters off of their length. This time I boldly cut INCHES. You should have seen the hair on the floor. I must say, the cuts turned out cute! Much cheaper than those kids beauty parlors...and I think I did a better job keeping my squirmy ones still! 
Aren't they cute? We like to sing the "Sisters" song from White Christmas...with our own words, of course. "Sisters. Sisters."


A week ago I promised to complete the list of our Advent activities, but instead I have all of the above swirling in my head and begging to be written down. So, I must promise again to complete my Advent activities list. In the meantime, here is a picture of our nightly procession: 

We sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel as we process upstairs to the bedrooms. The LED candles go in their windows and they hop in bed. This particular procession was on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, thus, the flowers.

Our picture of OLG is hung at the top of our stairs, now called Tepeyac Hill. The kids stopped there and left their flowers, and a couple of the candles on a little table. Each night, now, they stop and interrupt their hymn to say "Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!" and then continue to their rooms. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pretty over the Kitchen Sink

Auntie Leila over at Like Mother, Like Daughter is hosting a little party of kitchen sinks made pretty. Most of the ladies seem to have a window sill behind their sink. I was trying to figure out how to make mine pretty without the window, and then I realized that very often the area beyond the sink is adorned by the prettiest things in my three smiling children! I had them pose for me. I also have a Christmasy platter, covered in bananas, and my almost brand new red rooster paper towel holder. And then, of course there are the various soap containers, which I really should consolidate into one pretty dispenser (New Year's resolution? Christmas present for myself?) and the brushes. The little cup holding various kid's items is the last one left of a four cup set we bought in the UK. The kids used to drink hot chocolate from them on Sunday mornings after Mass. Now they use Starbucks espresso cups (yes, they really do put up with such small portions of hot cocoa!).

Thanks Auntie Leila for all your great advice and interesting discussions!

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at SouleMama.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby Longing

D. at a few weeks old. 

I have had it for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is waking up from a nap in the guest room/play room that would later be the room I shared with my sister. I was groggy as I noticed something lumpy under my clothes. It was my baby doll, and I remembered that I had put it under my shirt to pretend I was pregnant.

Though I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, preferring sports and bike riding to barbie dolls, I was always open to a good old fashioned game of house with baby dolls.

I always wanted kids. I always wanted ten of them. Very early on, I idolized a family in our parish with lots of kids (some of whom were adopted) more than any other family I knew.

But, as I grew into a woman and began looking around for husband material...I didn't see much. My twenties turned into my thirties and at last, Jim came into my life. We married when I was 36 and my first was born when I was 37. I have always been a "high risk mother", a "mother of advanced age". So, I had to set aside the dream of ten children years ago.

That was fine. I can deal with that. I am very, very blessed with three children in exactly four years of older motherhood. Each birth was followed by the hope of "just one more".

But now, as my youngest is almost five, I look fearfully on the possible end of my fertility. This blessing, that so much of the world treats as a disease, will disappear. And I am not ready for that. The baby longing comes stronger as the months and years advance. And it brings with it pain and fear.

Pain at the thought of not having another. Of never feeling that life move inside of me again. At recognizing that others so close to me have that same pain, and not as many living blessings I have.

The fear, though, is a mixed bag. As a "mother of advance age" every medical professional, women's magazine, or news show feels it their God-given duty to warn you about the dangerous possibilities. The statistics are everywhere. Even though I doubt their validity most of the time (what with abortion and contraception how can you really get an accurate picture of the possibilities?), they stir up the fear. Can I handle it if....?

But there is also the fear of getting older and all that entails--physically, mentally, spiritually. I know women do grow to embrace their post-menopausal lives...I am just not ready to even think of that right now! I still look in the mirror and see a twenty-something in a slightly-older-than-twenty-something body. And sometimes I even feel like a fourteen year old--especially in social situations or when my faults are glaring me in the face.

So.....just like those years before Jim and I found each other, I am forced to pray hard, and try harder to let go at the same time. To hold on tight to hope, but not dream too much. Hold on, let go, hold on, let go. The ultimate Catholic "both/and".

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We do that every Advent!

Our Advent this year is beginning to feel "traditional". We are beginning to say "we always do this during advent" a good way! We also have added some things and fine tuned others. Nothing is set in stone, but we have a good rhythm going.

For the record, as a part of the collective memory, and so that next year, when the kids say "Don't you remember Mama? We do that every year!", I will have a place to go so I can is the list as it stands this Advent. It will probably take me two blog posts to get it all down. 

The Christmas Novena: This is a new addition. We began on St. Andrew's Feast Day and are still going strong. God willing, we will make it all the way till Christmas. Too bad we didn't know about this when we lived in Scotland as St. Andrew is the Patron of Scotland.

We made the chaplets and I found the little holy cards with the prayer on the back. We pray the novena each morning during circle time.

 Play nativity scenes: We started this about two years ago when I bought the Little People Nativity Set. Since then we added a small wooden scene as well. This year, the kids got the beginnings of a Fontanini Nativity scene (the Holy Family and an Angel). My plan is to add to it each year in their stockings or for a sibling gift (see tomorrow's post about this) and mark their pieces with a pen on the bottom. Then, somewhere along the line, they will each get the core set (Holy Family and Angel) and will be able to take their pieces with them when they grow up, which, by the way, is never going to happen, right? Humor me, please!

Working with our new Fontanini nativity scene.
 Our Advent Tree with Jesse Tree ornaments: We started the Advent Tree tradition back before M. was born. We got our tree on the first Sunday of Advent and decorated it sparsly in purple, with some homemade ornaments made from old Christmas Cards. Then, on Christmas Eve we took all those down and redecorated for Christmas, leaving the tree up until the end of Christmas (or however long the real tree would last). The year before we moved to England, we perfected this process by buying a second tree on the day before Christmas Eve (or it may have been December 24). Since it was the end of the season we got it for 1 cent!! Well worth it, since the second tree was much more fresh than the one that had been in our house for four weeks.

Putting together the tree with my helpers on the First Sunday of Advent, 2010.

Then, the following year, in London, we gave in and bought a fake tree (a move that shocked my family for reasons I will share in another post, another day)---falling needles and dry tree problem solved. We can now leave it up as long as we want.
So now, it is our Jesse Tree as well. We color ornaments along with the Holy Heroes Kids.

The finished tree with the third set of lights purchased over two days and the first few Jesse Tree ornaments. Notice the purple cloth on the bottom. Since then we have added purple beads and more Jesse tree symbols. 

Holy Heroes Advent Adventure: This will be our third year doing Advent with the Holy Heroes kids. In case you are wondering, Tray is our favorite (apparently the only boy in the family, which, of course, endears him to D. immediately). When he is seen the kids erupt in cheers. Seriously. They do. I have to replay the little video so they can hear what is said! We don't do everything they do, mostly the Jesse Tree and the coloring pages. In years past we have done more of the recommended activities. Sometimes it is enough to just learn about them, and the significance of each activity. We love this FREE resource, and the products on their website as well!

Our books wrapped in purple next to our Fontanini Advent Calendar, a gift from a cousin many Christmas's ago. The print above is there year round, not just for Christmas. 

Christmas books: I think I got this idea from Shower of Roses. While in the UK I purschased quite a few Christmas themed books and we read them throughout Advent and Christmas. This year we started the tradition of wrapping them in purple paper and opening one each day. They have been put away since last Christmas so they feel like new books. We open one every week day and read it. Then it goes into our Christmas book bag to be read during free time.

For the rest of the Kennedy Family Advent Traditions tune in tomorrow....or the next day....or sometime soon.