This is Isaac on Christmas morning. It's hard to believe he's already three months old! He recently passed his 5lb mark (thank you, God!) and is really starting to focus his eyes. He's still a little peanut, but as you can see from this picture, he's absolutely precious.
Again, thanks for all the prayers for he and my sister. What a blessing to have you all as brothers and sisters in Christ!
Speaking of which...
I posted a link on my FB page to Cam's fundraiser. The author of A Woman's Place and the seamstress of A Snood for All Seasons, Cam and her family were displaced by the winter storms of the midwest. Up against the corner, she posted her plight online and we were able to rally around her - QUICKLY - to secure for her the funding she needed to provide necessities for her and the family. How beautiful is that?
Days like that, I really love being part of the Body of Christ. Witnessing and taking part in how loving and selfless "strangers" can be... it makes you pause and realize we're not strangers at all. We're brothers and sisters in Christ, and how grateful I am for that!
If you'd like to contribute to Cam or see more of her story, please click here!
All my love to you fine folks. <3
Christmas Eve Homily - Picture!
I'm so excited that Andy (one of our super talented musicians and apparently the photographer for the homily) finally posted this to Facebook. I've now stolen it to share with you guys!
You can see our beautiful nativity scene with all the children crowded around Fr. Piotr as he shared the story of Jesus' birth. The kids can't even fit into the frame. They spilled out a good amount on all sides of this picture.
Vincent is just beyond the bottom right side of the photo, but that's okay. I've got that photo tucked into my memory for years to come.
This photo just makes me smile. My entire heart is happy when I see this. I love our pastor, and I love that he does this with the children each year. We are blessed to have him in our parish. <3
Gloves and an Abandoned Shopping Cart
A couple weeks before Christmas, I was in Babies R Us shopping for three little girls.
The first was Madison, my goddaughter. Born on my birthday, she was going to be 6 months at Christmas.
The second was Molly. Molly was born a month before Maddy to our good friends, Hugh and Kim. Though they live in New York, I stalk their online pages regularly for updates about how they're all doing.
Finally, there was Maggie. Short for Magnolia, Maggie was born to Leo and Jen a few days after my nephew, Isaac, and she, too, was a premature peanut.
Anyway, I was excitedly filling up my shopping cart with adorable dresses, onesies and winter sets when a well-meaning woman nodded my way and said, "Awww, shopping for your baby girl, huh?"
I sorta glanced at her, but before I could answer, she again nodded at my stomach area and asked, "When are you due?"
Truth be told, it wasn't entirely her fault. I was wearing my coat and happened to have my gloves stuffed in the pockets. For comparison, here is what my winter coat looks like with and without gloves:
It might not seem like a huge difference, but in person, I can totally understand why someone might suspect I'm pregnant if they don't realize I've got gloves stuffed in my pockets, ESPECIALLY if I've got a cart stuffed to the brim with nothing but baby girl items in the newborn - 6 month range.
Anyway, I wasn't sure what to say. Honestly, I didn't want her to feel embarrassed, so I didn't correct her regarding my lack of pregnancy. Secondly, I felt the familiar rush of grief because it was another reminder that I would've still been pregnant (and noticeably so) with Myla and I would've been filling my cart with girly things for her had I not miscarried.
I chewed back tears. I physically chewed them back. I never understood that euphemism before, but stupidly standing in the middle of the store in front of a stranger who unknowingly stabbed a flaming sword through my heart, I physically had to clench my jaw repeatedly so I wouldn't lose it.
I somehow forced what I hope was a smile at her and simply nodded back. I then pushed my cart up a different aisle, took my purse, and abandoned ship.
I felt terrible that a store clerk would have to put back the cart-full of outfits I'd plucked for the girls, but I was beginning to feel suffocated. I couldn't have made myself stay even if someone had offered me a hundred dollars.
I haven't actually been back since that happened. In lieu of clothing and accessories, I purchased Maddy, Molly and Maggie a keepsake book that Vincent got for his first Christmas. He STILL loves it, and I hope the girls and their parents get to build just as many happy memories with their books as Vince and I still create with his.
I still feel kinda guilty, though, that I didn't put together the gifts like I'd originally wanted. This has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I thought I'd gotten past a lot of the super-charged emotions. Sometimes I'm perfectly okay. Most of the time I'm okay. It's those unexpected moments that pull the rug out from under me. I hate that I can't always control my feelings on this. I hate that it can (and does) spring up without warning.
But I guess that's just how love is. It's powerful that way, even when the love you share is with someone on the other side of the veil.
Merry Christmas, Myla. I wonder how you spent your first celebration of Jesus' birthday. Did you see the candle Mommy lit for you? Love you, sweetie. Always.
Vincent refused to pose for a photo with me this year, so this was the closest we got to a "Christmas Mass" photo. Le sigh.
Ah well. These were our outfits for Christmas Mass. My veil (a favorite purchase from Cam at A Snood for All Seasons) didn't stay on most of the Mass because Vincent decided my hair was his personal toy, and veils hinder his ability to play.
Again - le sigh.
But the homily absolutely made up for the crowded pews, lack of parking and fidgety child.
Our wonderful pastor called all of the children up to the manger for his homily. A horde of children circled him before the manger-throne of the Christ-child. He then sat amongst the straw with them and told them the story of Jesus' birth. He asked them about the animals, about Mary and Joseph, about the angels and the children excitedly raised their hands or called out their answers with enthusiasm that swept through the congregation. It was such an adorable sight to behold.
This was the first Christmas I allowed Vincent to go up with the rest of the children. I followed him, but stayed a few seats back. Each time he knew the answer to something, he'd turn back, look at me and tell me the answer. I'd laugh, point to Fr. Piotr and whisper, "Tell him!"
It made my heart so happy to see him participate in the liturgy. I imagine Jesus was quite pleased to have His children so close to Him, excitedly sharing the story of His birthday.
I haven't been to Hershey Park since I was a little girl. John and Vince have never been, so we were all pretty excited to plan out a family adventure to see the Sweet Lights attraction they put up every year.
God even gave us an early Christmas present - the weather was GORGEOUS, so we only had to wear light jackets the entire day!
Anyway, the park, itself, was beautifully decorated. Lights, poinsettias and Christmas carols permeated every square inch of the property. When we went to see Santa, the "cottage" dedicated to his December living quarters was made to look like a cute little toy shop. Their Santa was super sweet, too. He was sure to wish all the children a Merry Christmas and went out of his way to hug each child and remind them to be mindful of their parents.
After we had fun on the rides in the park, we grabbed dinner and then headed to the Sweet Lights attraction.
For those of you unfamiliar, Hershey Park does a ride-through attraction every year. You drive your car through 2 miles of light-up displays that sometimes peek out from the wooded path you travel. It's truly an impressive sight to behold. If it weren't for the terribly crowded traffic, it would've been great.
I was so pleased to see so many Christian displays. They had the entire 12 Days of Christmas up (the biggest display of all that was likely at least a quarter of a mile long, itself), advent wreaths, and even two nativity scenes. It made me so happy to see Hershey wasn't afraid to be "politically incorrect."
Way to go, Hershey!
Merry Christmas 2013
About a week ago, a friend of mine lamented that her 9 year old daughter was pressuring her to "be honest" about Santa Claus. She demanded to know if what her friends in school said were true. Is there really a Santa? Can he really fly around the world delivering toys in one night?
My friend had taken to Facebook in the hopes of getting a good response from us. I told her what I planned to tell Vincent one day, but I admitted it only worked if her daughter had a good grasp of who Saint Nicholas really was.
This is the first year Vincent understands what Christmas is beyond presents. This is his first year understanding who Santa Claus is. Truthfully, this is mostly my fault because I never pressed the issue. I never wanted to stress Santa over Jesus, so I never made a big deal about Santa. I never talked about him outside of "We're getting pictures with Santa."
I never threatened him with "If Santa sees you being naughty, you won't get any presents." I also never talked about Santa coming down the chimney to deliver presents to get Vince psyched about Christmas.
In fact, come Christmas morning, Vince was usually surprised to see presents under the tree at all! Ha ha.
Anyway, I figured I should frame the "Santa story" in as correct a way as possible so when it came his turn to confront me about the validity of the story, I'd have a leg to stand on.
Here is the story I wrote and have been telling Vincent the last few weeks. I'm contemplating getting someone with artistic skills to help me with illustrations so I can make a keepsake book for him.
So hey - if you guys know any good illustrators...
Nicholas - The Boy Who Would Be Santa
Once upon a time there lived a boy named Nicholas.
Nicholas loved the sea. He lived in Patara, a beautiful town with a large shipping port. Every day, Nicholas and the other children would run to the docks to watch sailors as they worked aboard ships from all over the world. These ships would bring treasures from far-away places, and Nicholas enjoyed watching the other children as their eyes glistened at all the new and mysterious goods they saw.
Nicholas also grew up loving Jesus. In fact, he loved Jesus so much that he would always try to delight Him with tiny gifts.
Once, a sailor gave little Nicholas a bunch of sweet red grapes. Nicholas quickly gave them to his neighbor, Nina, who chased him through the town trying to hug him in thanks. Poor Nicholas blushed for weeks! He had just wanted to give her the grapes because it would make her happy. Nicholas knew that making her happy would make Jesus happy; he didn’t want to be chased around town with gratitude!
So from that day forward, little Nicholas promised he’d make Jesus smile in secret.
Each time he had an extra shirt or pair of socks, he’d secretly pass them along to a friend who needed them.
If he was given special fruit or sweets from the sailors, he’d hide them in the shoes and stockings of children as they slept in their beds.
He’d even complete chores for people who seemed to be too tired – all in total secrecy!
He was like the CIA of Good Will!
All throughout Patara, people were filled with joy and gratitude because of Nicholas. Nicholas, for his part, offered all his works to Jesus. He knew that every smile was a present for Jesus, and that made Nicholas happy.
As Nicholas grew into a man, he decided to serve Jesus as a priest. He wanted to bring Jesus to everyone and teach his people to love God as much as He did. In fact, he was such a loving, holy priest that he was made a bishop! As bishop, Nicholas worked even harder to teach people about Jesus and how much Jesus loved them.
However, Nicholas was still up to his old tricks. When his people would come to him for help, he would pray to God on their behalf. Then, if he could, Nicholas would sneak out quietly to give these families the food, money or clothing they needed. All of this he would do for love of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was using him to answer the prayers of the people, and again, Nicholas felt happy.
As Nicholas got older, the people of Greece finally began realizing that their “Wonder-Worker” had been their beloved bishop all along. When Nicholas became too old to sneak out to gift people their needs, others began following his example. All over Greece, regular people began helping their neighbors in secret, just like Nicholas. And just like Nicholas, these nice and generous people offered their service for the love of Jesus.
When Nicholas was 73, he passed away, just before Christmas. His heartbroken people knew that he was going to Heaven to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with Him, so instead of crying for him, they celebrated with him.
In fact, every year, on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, people all over the world celebrate with him by surprising their families with little gifts just as Saint Nicholas had done. And on Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas, now known as Santa Claus, still blesses the children of God in honor of Jesus, his beloved Savior.
So hey - if you know any illustrators out there, pass them my way. I really want to make this into a real book for him. :)
Vincent Picks a Winner!
Congratulations to Stacy of Catholic and Crunchy! As you can see above, Vincent drew her name from the pool of paper and beads (he wouldn't be bothered otherwise).
Thanks for entering, folks. I hope you all have a blessed final few days of Advent. May your Christmas season be bright, beautiful and full of Christ's love.
Guess who has another giveaway for you to take part in?
This girl right here!
If you’ve ever been interested in the liturgical year, tid-bits of history about our traditions or even curious what fun activities other families do to participate in the liturgical calendar, this giveaway is for you!
There’s a new series of books being published that not only follows the liturgical year, but provides great insight, resources and ideas so you and your families can follow along, too! The series is titled Let Us Keep the Feast and is from Doulos Press. There will be four books in total, but right now, I’m focusing on Book One which focuses on Advent and Christmas.
In addition to being chock-full of beautiful, enriching perspectives about these two special seasons, I’m pleased to report that Michelle Bychek of Liturgical Time co-authored it! Many of you have heard me speak highly of her blog and veil shop in the past. After reading her portion of the book, I’m pleased to report that she is just as thorough with her book writing as she is with her gorgeous lace work.
The book is is written from a refreshingly traditional perspective. I should also note that while the book is not specifically Catholic, it does espouse Catholic traditions.
Everything is very streamlined for easy reference. You can follow along page by page or jump around if you’re looking for something specific (recipes and activities for children come to mind). I honestly love this feature because I’m one to grab a book off the shelf and thumb through for craft ideas for my CCD classes.
My absolute favorite part about this book, though, are the various historical insights that explain why we Christians celebrate in the way that we do. I admit I learned a thing or two from these pages, and that, itself, is reason enough to recommend it to others. I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but something tells me that should I venture it, I’d have another reason to recommend as well.
Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this book and learning more about my favorite traditions. You’ve got a chance to score yourselves a copy, too! I'm going the old-fashioned route and taking names. Just comment below and I’ll have Vincent scoop a name from the batch on Friday evening. I haven't videotaped him doing a drawing in a while!
If you can’t wait until then, it’s available in digital form through Doulos’ eStore for only $1.99. If you’re like me and must have a physical copy, it’s $9.95 through Amazon.
So good luck and enjoy the rest of your Advent!
This picture was taken last night at my brother's house. He hosted an impromptu cookie-party that gathered together my siblings, my mom, my nieces and nephews as well as my aunt, uncle and two family friends.
Anyway, we got this picture of the grandkids: Isaac, Charlotte, Arianna, Addison, and Vincent (left to right). Maria (mother to Isaac and Arianna) commented on Facebook "We need to even this out. Someone has to have a girl. Lol"
Took everything in me not to reply "Someone did."
Creche Winner Switch-a-roo
Congratulations go to Dom as the winner of the Christmas Creche. However, I'd like to tell you all about the wonderful, generous thing she's doing with the creche that Divine Providence put into her hands.
A couple days ago, my mother noted that I was giving away the creche on my blog. She said, "Why don't you give that to So-and-So. She needs one for the kids."
I told her I couldn't do that. It felt like I'd be cheating all of those who participated out of a chance to win. I told her she could enter if she wanted to for a fair shot, but I couldn't justify pulling the nativity after posting it as a giveaway, ya know?
Anyway, fast forward to my buddy, Dom, winning the creche. She and I met a couple years back online. We started out as two women sharing tidbits about the faith, and slowly developed a friendship rooted firmly in "I'll pray for you, you pray for me."
We never met in person, but I can always count on her to be a wonderful person through and through.
So imagine my delight when her name was drawn as the winner. This is her 2nd win from my page (out of the 10 or so giveaways I've done). When I told her about the family with no creche, she generously offered to pass it along to them. How sweet is that? She did not have to be so generous, but she chose to be, and for that, I am humbled.
Now this family will have a Christmas creche, and the mom will have a beautiful display with which to teach her two young children about the real reason for the season for many years to come.
When Dom displayed this generosity without hesitation, I asked if there was anything I could do to repay her kindness. She said, "Pray a novena to St. Monica for the conversion of my children."
I'm going to admit something that embarrasses me a bit, but I've never successfully completed a novena. I've started plenty, but never completed one (at least in the right amount of time). However, I promise that I will complete this novena for Dom as a thank you.
My mom, when she heard Dom's request, offered to do the same.
I would ask that anyone else, if you feel so inclined, please pray along with us. What a beautiful way to start this week.
Thanks for the Christmas magic, Dom. And thanks to all who participated.
I hate winter. I hate the cold, I hate the snow, I hate the over-inflated sense of "busy-ness" that causes people to get crotchety for no real reason outside of "My to-dos are more important than yours, so get out of my way."
However, today was a complete departure from that, and it's all because of how much my son loves the snow.
As soon as we came downstairs, he bee-lined for the windows in excitement as he saw snowflakes dancing in the wind. He immediately wanted to run outside (in his pajamas) to begin making snowballs to throw at yours truly.
Given the snow was coming down pretty hard, I suggested we wait until the afternoon when it let up a bit. He grudgingly accepted that and we spent the morning cuddled on the couch watching TV, playing "elevator" with his Toy Story figures, and making random snacks that somehow all incorporated peanut butter (he's all his daddy, this one).
After his nap, I bundled him up and set him loose in the front yard. He helped me out with his very first snowman. I decided it'd be easier (and more fun) for him to use Mr. Potato Head pieces for the features of the snowman. Turned out to be a stellar decision because after he'd finished pushing the pieces into the snowman, he filled the actual Potato Head bodies with snow and used them to make snow-balls for himself. How smart is that?
So yeah - with all the fun Vincent was having, how could I not have a little fun, myself? Seeing winter through his eyes made me realize that this season isn't all terrible. Sure I still hated being in the cold and wetness of the snow, but I was in it doing ridiculous and fun things with my son. An hour or so of cold toes was more than worth it to hear him giggling and laughing at the wonder this time of year brings.
Kids - they will teach you how to be more thoughtful human beings whether or not you like it. I am grateful his joy chided my curmudgeonly self.
Anyone else tickled pink by the various posts detailing the travels of our 3 favorite wise men?
I'm absolutely LOVING the creativity involved with moving these fine gentlemen from one spot to another.
I'll admit that I've always wanted to do this, but with my husband being Super Grinch when it comes to Christmas, it makes things tough. I only decorate the living room so as not to leave him in fits of rage, and the small nativity I use for Vincent is played with by him throughout the entire season, so trying to hijack 3 of his favorite figures would likely end in a tantrum of sorts.
Ah well. I am currently living vicariously through two wonderful momma bloggers and I suggest you do the same (if you're not already stalking their travel hardy kings)!
Cam from A Woman's Place has documented her kings riding trikes, climbing mini-jungle gyms and getting trapped in shoes.
Monique from Mountains of Grace Homeschooling has found her kings climbing garland, sneaking into libraries and checking out what's on TV.
In both of the links above I've connected to you their "Day One" travel arrangements. However, I strongly encourage you all to put them on your blog rolls to check them out in the coming days to see what sort of predicament they find themselves in next.
Who needs Elf on a Shelf when you've got the Three Kings, right?
Thanks, ladies, for making this advent season a little more chuckle-filled.
Christmas Creche Giveaway!
Up for grabs is an adorable Linda Dano nativity set, complete with the wooden stable to house the holy family.
I had originally purchased this set as a Christmas gift for my brother, I think, but either my Mom or he purchased another one almost exactly like it. This set has been sitting in my basement, forgotten, until I began retrieving things for Christmas decorating.
As such, I now have a pretty awesome give-away for one of you lucky readers! It's brand new. I only opened it to make sure no pieces were broken while it was stored away. Original packaging is mostly intact except where I cut into the tape. Yay!
You can see info on both the figures and the stable by clicking the pictures below. However, if you have any questions, you can feel free to message me. This set is completely FREE (so shipping is on me!). I just want to see this set go to a family that will use it and enjoy it.
Also, heads up everyone!
Mandi over at Messy Wife, Blessed Life is doing an awesome giveaway that happens to feature yours truly and a litany of other small businesses. Go over and enter to win. I bet you'll find yourselves a few folks to purchase stocking stuffers from.
Click here and good luck!
John and I spent much of Thanksgiving in airports and on an airplane.
However, it was a great Thanksgiving.
John's father generously organized a family vacation down to Disney that took place through an extended Thanksgiving Day weekend. In total, 10 of us spent 6 days together in a combination of Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
However, before we packed ourselves away on the airplane, I was able to make a quick stop at my Mom's house beforehand. Since she thought we were already Florida-bound, she was SUPER surprised to see Vincent come barging through the door.
That was probably my favorite part of the entire day. I love surprises like that!
We spent about 45 minutes there before having to leave. I hated having to go so soon. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year, and I missed not spending it with my family.
But I did spend it with family, so I can't really complain. Vincent and I went back to Jersey to pick up John and then meet up with his sisters and their husbands for the trip to the airport. Surprisingly, everything went really smoothly. The kids were great on the plane and baggage was efficiently shuttled onto the conveyor for retrieval. John's father was already outside waiting to pick us up, and when we unloaded at the Ft. Lauderdale house, John's mom had already set out Thanksgiving dinner for everyone.
After cleaning up and putting the children to bed, the rest of us played a ridiculous card game together. John Sr, my father-in-law, won with a score of 10. I came in second with 8 and my husband, John Jr, caught third place with 6.
It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the interpersonal communication shared as opposed to contending with iPads and television screens. A family game played around a family table is a great way to share laughs and love (and terrible, terrible jokes).
We spent another day in Ft. Lauderdale before making the 2.5 hour trek to Orlando. That wasn't so bad as the kids were content to watch two Charlie Brown videos while I caught up on some reading. John and his father talked sports in the front seat while the other half of our party followed our SUV in a rental.
We hit up Universal as well as Disney. We did not do Animal Kingdom because, frankly, no one wanted to be bothered given all the other parks we were trying to cram into the three days we spent in Orlando. Universal and Disney were MORE than enough for us.
Vincent surprised me by going on several of the "big kid" rides that I thought would be too scary for him. Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Jurassic Park were among them!
He and my niece, Alliya, also had a great time playing in the swimming pools at both houses. Vincent is getting much more comfortable jumping into deeper water so long as Daddy is there to catch him. He began following Alliya's lead doing trick jumps into the water.
Alliya, for her part, is becoming quite the little fish. She no longer fears the deep water like she used to. I snapped so many photos of them swimming around together.
After they'd had their fill of zipping around the pool, they caught a quick cat nap while the rest of us took a mini-siesta, too.
Look at them holding hands in during their cat nap. Alliya was actually awake. She kept kissing Vincent's head and petting his hair. Ha ha. It was so sweet.
Of course, we have plenty of theme park photos, but for now, I hope this suffices. I also caught a few "3 King" photos in Epcot as we explored the various Christmas practices of other countries. But that, too, will have to wait for another day. I'm just glad to be back home. My feet were beginning to plot a revolt.
I hope your Thanksgivings were just as wonderful as mine. Maybe even moreso!
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