Monday, December 31, 2012

A Random Christmas Tradition

Somehow or other we started the tradition years back of Ice Cream Dinner during Christmas.  After a trip to the hobby store to play with the train sets, we went last night to enjoy homemade ice cream at a local shop.  I also learned last week that David does, in fact, have a feast day!  Most of the liturgical calendars I've seen have never listed David the shepherd boy/Goliath killer/psalmist/patriarch/king (for whom he is named...right now he is partial to the Goliath killer part) as having a feast.  BUT THEN last week I decided to look a little deeper and there IS a feast for him and it just so happened to be in a week, December 29th!  So this was also our celebration of his newly found feast day :)  Yay for the internet!

We took a ridiculously long time deciding what to get.  When you only do this type of thing once a year, you've got to make it count, amiright??

David didn't want a sundae.  Just plain chocolate ice cream...his "favorite dinner."

Baby Euphoria

Post sugar infusion

The boy likes his sugar.

Mom exists!  I think that was Luke's attempt at a smile...ha!

Tonight will be low key.  For some crazy reason (that I'm SURE has nothing to do with parents giving their children ice cream for dinner) we had some little boys who didn't sleep well last night.  I think we'll go to the vigil Mass for tomorrow's solemnity and then put the kids to bed and relax.  I've never really gotten into the New Year's Eve thing...especially not since being parent.  Maybe someday we'll have a super rockin' party to attend but for now I think I prefer sleep :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Innocents Lost

I don't like today.

Today the Church remembers the hundreds, thousands? of little babies murdered by King Herod's guards.  The Holy Innocents.  I don't want to think about it.  In the standard modern way I'd rather just pretend it didn't happen or whitewash it in a concise and bleached sentence like in one of the many children's Bibles we've collected on our shelves over the years.  

But once in a while I let myself think.  I let myself think of the terrified screams coming from newborns and toddlers alike as they were ripped away from their homes.  The wailing of mothers whose emptiness is palpable in my throat.  Fathers, powerless to fight the evil of those brutal soldiers.  Perhaps they were begging, pleading, bargaining to protect their precious sons.  I wonder if there were those that fled the way Joseph and Mary did.  I wonder if they were caught because they didn't have a supernatural forewarning in an angelic dream.  I wonder if some of those mothers had heard why their little baby was being slaughtered and hated that little newborn King for the grief that He caused.  I wonder if they were forced to witness the murder and if they were allowed to bury their baby's body.  I wonder if some of those parents ever met Jesus when He was an adult, ministering to the masses.  Would He have known that His birth prompted the death of their baby boy?  Would they have?  I even wonder if some were so consigned to the evil of the time that they didn't put up a fight.  I wonder what I would do in that same situation and just in doing so my stomach turns to rock and I feel my throat close.

I am glad to be a part of a Church that recognizes the loss of these first little martyrs.  One that acknowledges the wrenching grief of a parent whose child has been murdered because of the selfishness of an adult.  At the same time, I'm not sure any of us really get it unless we've been through that unimaginable moment.  But the reality is that it's not over.  I think of the woman in China pinned to a bed, while her child is aborted within her.  I think of the mother in Africa who watches her children executed because they belong to the wrong race or tribe or religion.  I think of the parents whose children are sold to sex traffickers so that they can pay off their debt.  I think of the woman right here in our own nation who is pressured to kill the life within her lest the man who has planted that life abandon her.  I think of the man sobbing with grief because he is powerless to stop the dismemberment of his baby simply because the uterus is not his.  I think of the depth of grief of parents whose child was gunned down while in the supposed safety of a school.  I think of the adoptive parents whose children have figuratively been ripped from their families through surprise legal sanctions.  No, it is not over.  How many times today more innocents are lost because of selfishness, money, emotional scars, politics, and fear.  My heart can barely stand to think of it.    

After every baby I've had, my heart seems to become more aware of the suffering that exists in this world.  When I let myself, my heart feels like it is being squeezed by their pain.  I see their faces and I picture the sins being committed against these little ones.  I want to save them.  I want to rescue them and I don't know how.  My little attempts at donations to various charities and my haphazard prayers seem laughable in contrast to their hurt.  I want to do more and be more to them.  At the same time I know I am not their savior.  He is.  And I know that without Him leading me my efforts would be fruitless anyway.

I know what it is like to lose a child.  I have no idea what it must be like to have another person to blame for it.  I don't know if my heart would become angry and calloused in response but I know I am weak enough that it's a likely possibility.  But even in all of this ugliness, these heinous acts, I have hope.  I have to.  I have to believe that our Lord can bring beauty out of the indescribable ugliness.  I have to believe that these innocents rest in His heart and that they now know perfect freedom and joy the height of which we cannot even comprehend.  I don't know how people of good will can NOT believe that (and I know many who don't).  At the root it seems like it must be a terribly desolate system in which they live.  Truth be told, in reflecting on all of this I was starting to feel pretty hopeless myself.  It just seems that this life is so full of sorrow and misery.  For some, it is all they know.  It is just so very overwhelming and I left this post half written this morning because I could barely stand that I didn't have a sweet little wrap-up to the problem of suffering.  Something that said, see? It all makes sense now!  I want a neat and tidy theological snippet to help me wrap my brain around it all.  Then my friend Theresa just gifted me with this quote at the perfect time...

"The cries of slaughtered children, called so poetically the Holy Innocents, echo loudly through our time.  For those deeply committed to the cause of life this is a day of pilgrimage and prayerful reparation and fervent petition to end the slaughter of children in our own time... Christ's peace is not a passive state of dreamy harmony that one sees in living room paintings.  Christ's peace is the victory prize in a relentless conflict lasting until the end of the world - the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain."  - Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation

...and while that doesn't take away the pain or the grief or the unfathomable suffering that the innocent have endured throughout history, at the very least it gives us hope.  We MUST continue to work and pray for justice, especially for these little ones, while at the same time knowing that in this world, we will never find perfect justice.  True justice will not exist until the end of the world.  And then.  Then all things will be made right.  And meanwhile those innocent souls rest in Love Itself.  Those innocents are lost to us but they are found by Him.
And it is in that that I hope.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Simple Gifts

Permit me a semi-obnoxious mom gush for a moment, would you?  
I just have been so blown away by how innocent and pure hearted my little boys are this Christmas.  NARY a word in the weeks or days before Christmas about what they'd be getting.  Nary, I tell you.  I'm serious.  I think at one point Michael mentioned he would like a bow and arrow but it was a few weeks ago and he wasn't even referring to Christmas.  They spent the remaining days of Advent working night and day excitedly and hurriedly preparing their gifts for each other and doing all sorts of extra acts of service to earn more money for their gifts for the poor.  And then, no joke, Christmas morning we opened the doors to the library where the tree and gifts were and not ONE of them noticed the huge gifts sitting there.  They immediately wanted to give each other the gifts they had made.  Honestly, my children move me to tears sometimes.

And now I'll show you way too many pictures.

Simple gifts

How could you not want some of these gifts under your tree?  Ridiculous amount of money spent on new pajamas now totally worth it.

Now onto Christmas morning...
Placing baby Jesus in the stable

Michael was so proud to buy David some new army men with his own money.

A gift for David made by John Paul.  It's a train made entirely out of cardboard.  And the wheels roll and pivot.  Seriously, my heart....

John Paul was so super sneaky one day at Michael's and bought this wooden ship puzzle for his brother without him having any idea.  He was so focused on buying just the right one that he knew Michael would want.  So awesome.

Then John Paul and Michael decided to give David this bunk bed built by John Paul a few years ago.  It's for his stuffed dog and bear.

And Michael was even generous to himself.  He literally made something in his art class, wrapped it up and opened it on Christmas morning.  And still managed to surprise himself.  

A work bench for John Paul made entirely out of pallets and pegboard.  Brian outdid himself.  The front even opens as a drawer.  In front is Michael's bow and arrow.  Um, not handmade.  The boys seriously didn't even notice this huge addition to the room and we had to point it out to them.  They were so psyched to give their gifts.

Also a gift to me since this will hopefully keep all the boys' work supplies in. one. place.  

A teepee for David.  I made it using these instructions.  It was way harder and more bad word inducing than it looks.  I was very tempted two days before Christmas to scrap the whole thing and run to the toy store. 

But I pressed on.  The whole thing was SO worth it to have David ask who gave it to him and when he learned I made it for him, he ran over, jumped on my lap exclaiming, "I LOVE my teepee, Mama!  Thank you SO much!"  *tear*  It was so so good to hear our challenging David say that.  He then willingly took a nap in it that afternoon :)

Michael's ready for battle.  At this point no eyes have been shot out.  Yet.

Camera face.  Luke with his wooden peg sorting set.  (Idea found here...I'm not that creative.)

Every year I get each of the boys (and now Brian) a personal ornament that somehow represents their year.  It was so fun to hear how excited they were about their previous ones when we were decorating the tree.  This year John Paul got a celtic knot (aka, "the Lord of the Dance symbol"), Michael a toolbox, David an airplane,

and I found a mama and baby hippopotamus ornament for the Luke!  (Ahem.  Only a real woman can allude to herself as a hippopotamus without flinching.)  Brian got a turkey.

Every year I make Brian and my in-laws a calendar.  Brian claims it's one of his favorite gifts.  I think this year's turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

In the afternoon we went over to my mom's to celebrate with my sisters and their families.  Seventeen kiddos all nine and under equals one crazy Christmas celebration.

Chocolate mint cheesecake is Jesus' favorite.  

Another merry Christmas to you, friends.  Gushing is now over.  Thank you for listening.  Today we're relaxing, enjoying treats, listening to Christmas music, doing puzzles, and planning the rest of our Christmas celebrating.  Life is good.  Thank you, Lord, for all your gifts.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve at Our House

C'mon in!  We've done our best to prepare for you...and for Him.

Tonight we'll be heading out to the vigil Mass...the first Mass of Christmas!  Our Christmas Eve traditions include me bawling like a baby at Mass when the first strains of Joy to the World are heard and blasting our first and favorite Christmas music of the season on the way home.  Upon arriving home, we will be greeted by the smell of a perfectly roasted (home-raised!!!!) turkey and I'll finish all the fixins' while the littles bop around to the afore forbidden Christmas music.  Feasting with the family.  The Christmas cookies will (finally!) be brought out and new pajamas for the boys.  The boys will bring down their gifts they've made for others and put them under the tree.  Our Christmas novena will be prayed, the last Jesse Tree ornament put up, night prayers said, and then off to bed.  Upon which Brian and I will pray Evening Prayer and then I will most likely imbibe on another glass of wine while I fill stockings and Brian sets up the gifts under the tree.  Then the big people to bed whereupon I will likely be woken every two to three hours by the Luke babe.  Sounds like a plan, man.

May you have a blessed, blessed Christmas, friends!  I am so grateful for all of you.

(And if you didn't get this in the mail, just pretend, k?)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Intentional Advent - Visiting the Sick, Burying the Dead

We did it!  In some fashion or other our family was able to complete each of the corporal works of mercy this Advent.  It has been so amazing to see the boys (and myself!) get into it, setting a goal and achieving it.  And isn't it funny when we open ourselves up to something like this that God suddenly gives us AMPLE opportunity to do it?  It was tempting to feel overwhelmed by all the acts of charity that were literally placed right in our paths (or email inboxes) but God gave this type A busy mother a huge grace in choosing and completing one at a time and relying on Him to give us the time and energy to do them.  And He very much did.  

Today we visited the sick.  We went to the nursing home where my grandmother resides and spent some good time visiting with her.  Then we did our best to visit with the other residents who were open to a little chat and a candy cane.  I don't get to visit my grandma nearly as often as I should or would like.  The home is not particularly suited to four curious and active little boys and the schedule they keep there usually leaves out the opportunity to go myself when the kids can stay home.  But every time I am able to go I'm so glad that I did make that extra effort.

Dear Luke, you were in the picture.  I promise.  In fact, the whole reason I took this picture was because I wanted to make sure to get a picture with you and Grandma both in since we don't have one yet.  Yep.  Your mother's photography skills are enviable, are they not?  

After the nursing home we headed over to the cemetery where my other grandparents were buried.  There, we did our best to clean up the grave and were hoping to clean a bit around the cemetery itself.  It ended up being the fastest work of mercy ever as it was cold and wet but we did our best.  We prayed for the souls of the people there, especially those who have no one to pray for them.  Every time I visit a cemetery I find it so very humbling, don't you?  So many people.  So many lives that were and are just as important as mine.  Certainly puts a little focus into your day, right?

Tomorrow will be a busy day of cleaning and cooking as we finally welcome Christmas into our home.  While I do feel like this has been the busiest Advent ever it has also definitely been the most intentional.  I am thrilled with the way our children have grown and responded to our Advent plans and even with the craziness I feel like it has been one of my best Advents as well.    I'm hoping and praying that the effort and focus we put into this Advent will bear much fruit for our family.  And I pray that our King will find our little sacrifices and plans a worthy gift.

And now?  Now I am very very much looking forward to some relaxing and celebrating and a whole lot of eating of very delicious food.   I hope you had a super blessed Advent and that your Christmas celebrations are everything you want them to be!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Homemade Wooden Toddler Push Cart

The Luke babe has been loving his new little push cart that we made him for his birthday!  In fact, all the boys have been taking turns pushing each other around and having all sorts of fun with it.  I knew a few months ago that I wanted to get something like this for him but all the ones that I liked (read: simple and wooden without plastic neon noisemaking parts) were crazy expensive.  I'm kinda proud that we put this one together ourselves and it was so super simple.  I like it even better than the sixty dollar plus ones I was seeing online! cost us about $4.50 to make!

For the base we upcycled (doesn't that sound fancier than reused?) a great box that came with our Melissa and Doug wooden blocks.  I knew one of those boxes would come in handy some day!  This one was storing lightbulbs in a deep dark cabinet.  I bet you could use a wood fruit box or any sort of cool wood crate you come across.  The "wheels" were just simple four inch wood circles found in the wooden craft section of Hobby Lobby where I also found the dowel to serve as the axles.  The other wood for the handle was scrap wood we had in the garage that Brian cut and shaped.  The height is 20 inches (custom to fit Luke).

A view from the bottom
So simple, right?  I believe Brian bore into the wheel (but not all the way through) and then used wood glue to secure the axle into place.  The blocks to secure it into place were scrap wood.  They are attached to the box with two screws through the inside of the box.  The dowel we cut to about 13 inches.  Obviously everything we used we made sure to sand down well (though, as you can see, we weren't motivated enough to get that stubborn sticker off).   All the measurements are specific to this box.  The handle is pretty self explanatory and you can see from the pictures how simple it is! 

It was a family effort.  John Paul and I rubbed every inch of it with a homemade beeswax and olive oil finish.  We left it on for a day to allow it to penetrate the wood then buffed the excess off.  I love the finish it gave!  It's also much safer than commercial sealers.  In fact, when we were done, we rubbed the extra left on our hands right into our skin!

During the waxing

And done!

And despite the fact that the little stinker learned to walk on his own FIVE months before his brothers and after we had already planned this out, he really is loving it.  What child doesn't love something to push and tote things around in?

Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions.  I'd love to hear it if this inspires anyone to make their own! 

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