Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday fun...

We've been doing a good job of filling our mornings and afternoons during these 12 days of Christmas. During the week we stayed inside to play games and build forts:

When Dad came home on the weekend, we went outside and shoveled and played:

The older ones like their cocoa to warm up but Mr. G is a fan of a nice warm bath :0)
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Feast Day!

Since we haven't had enough excitement around is the Feast Day of our little man, St. John; the beloved disciple of Jesus. (It's also my sister's birthday - cool!)

Mommy is sick and everyone else is mourning the days spent with daddy home and grandma visiting. No better time to try out the new camera and lay around with some Sesame Street.

Random shots...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


to you and your families on this joyous day.


Sorry about the "secular" shot ;0p I wanted a family picture in front of the chance today. Luckily I have 12 more days!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Waiting for the Light

If I haven't mentioned it, I am Slovak on my Dad's side. Today, Christmas Eve, is one of the days that is chock full of Slovak traditions; many of which we are trying to pass along to our own children, partly because they anchor the day in religious symbolism and partly because I want them to have some idea of their heritage (even if it's watered down quite a bit).

1. The Dinner: the traditional Slovak meal is is our last quiet day of self-denial before we celebrate tomorrow. We have sauerkraut mushroom soup, Oplatki with honey, and peas. There are other parts to the meal but, for the time being, they are too labor-intensive (especially for me, since I don't really like those dishes anyway).

We will also have pirogi and shrimp for those who are joining us and don't wish to partake in the customary meal. This, I don't understand, since I remember vividly walking away from the table still famished every year (because I didn't want to eat the soup, etc.). This is the kindler, gentler me. Besides, all my kids are willing to try the soup so that makes me happy :0)

Soup! YUM!

The main themes of the meal are sweet (honey) and sour (kraut/garlic), representing the blessings and trials in life. The Oplatki remind us of the story of the Nativity and the blessing of Our Savior's birth (as well as the Eucharist). The peas are eaten, I think, because they are round and that's a big deal with the Slovaks. Truly, I must send an email to Fr. Peter (N's godfather in Slovakia) for more insight.

Here is a brief article about the meal...perhaps we should be going to the South Side and then I won't have to cook! Slovak Christmas

2. Money: This is two-fold and, since I can't find any evidence of it under "Slovak traditions" on the Internet, I can only guess that Bub's (grandmother) family held it as tradition in their village.

- When you eat the traditional Christmas Eve meal, the more money you have on your person, the greater the wealth you will have in the New Year. Seems crass, but you have to understand these people were peasants. I think we'll give the kids a small sum then let them "shop" at World Vision or some similar site, to use their money as a gift to help others.

- You aren't allowed to spend money on Christmas Eve. Now, this has all the trappings of being completely invented by my dad, although Bub also talked about it every year. I suffered the effects of this personally, since we took the long and winding roads to Pittsburgh, rather than pay the turnpike toll (see the previous posts on carsickness). Ugh. On the positive side, I love using this reason to get my shopping done really early. Having the "sorry, can't spend money today" excuse, really cuts down on pressure to day any last minute gift buying ;0)

3. Finally, there are NO LIGHTS on Christmas Eve! Well, there is some formula to this...I think you have to wait until you see lights in the neighbor's window before you can turn them on in your house. That became kind of a ridiculous game if you lived in a Slovak neighborhood, I suppose. Again, I'm not sure about the authenticity of this, I just know we grew up with the tradition. When Bub lived in an Eastern suburb of the city, highly populated by Jewish neighbors, the lights were usually on by 9 AM ;0)

My best guess, of course, is that we remain in darkness this day as we wait for the Light of the World on Christmas. That is why I like it. It seems to be fairly straightforward. Also, I have wonderful memories of everyone trying not to be the one who first turned on the light at our house (it was usually my mom, BTW). Having had 3 AM Adoration today, I am grateful that my husband left strategic lights on for me so that I didn't fall down the stairs on my way out this morning.

Also, you may ask, does a computer, TV, etc., count as "light". Yes, unfortunately, I think it does. So, I'm breaking my own tradition. I know that, as my children get older, I will say "no" to TV and computers on this day. I want it to be a day of gathering of family, eating of the traditional meal, and quietly waiting. We're almost there!

Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas. May the Light shine in your hearts now and always.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Birthday boy

I now have three children over the age of 4. Wow. That's an amazing thing to me. I remember being pregnant with this guy and knowing everything. LOL. What great lessons I've learned from all the additional blessings in the past few years. Chiefly that what works for our family doesn't/shouldn't work for everyone (the opposite also being true). Someday I will write that post ...but not today.

Anyway. I'm still trying to get into the birthday-just-before-Christmas thing. It's complicating everything but it's also forcing us to make some clear decisions about what we're trying to emphasize. I think it's working. For now.

Last night, after the birthday boy opened a few presents, they all went off to play. Someone asked why he just stopped opening. That's the funny thing around here. For now, at least, the gift opening is not the central issue. For now, the important thing is spending time with the birthday boy. So, that's what we did.

When I was reflecting last night about the gift phenomenon, I realized that it could be a wonderful learning opportunity. This Christmas, if it's like last, after the first present or two is opened, they will walk away for a bit. Then it will be time to think about/read about/spend time with the Birthday Boy. That's the important thing, right? After all, He is born this day so that He may redeem us at Easter. Yes, all present tense, just like the 4-year-old last night. 

Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

(see? Now...Today!)

I am thankful that these people are still pretty malleable as far as beliefs go. Perhaps, if we start the important teaching now, even if they don't exactly understand, it will be a base for future learning one day.

We shall see. We teach, we pray, we do our best. That's what works in our house.

Oh, and the cake turned out well too, despite the GIANT cones! ;0)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Almost ready...

OK. I have a birthday party, a brother bunking with us and a mother-in-law arriving, all in the next 48 hours. For those reasons, we finally decorated the tree. I love our tree decorating routine. The little people love carrying their personal ornaments to their dad who then hangs them on the tree. It is a nice assembly line. Unfortunately, since I'm the ornament distributor, I can't take many pictures. Here are a few.

Can you say "grouchy elf"?

Happy 8 month birthday, by the way. When it falls on your mom's actual birthday and a week before Christmas, there is no chance at all that it's going to be marked on the actual day. Sorry.
I hope that the last few days of Advent fully prepare you to receive the Greatest Gift. :0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Getting over it...moving on

Today was the 15th anniversary of my father's death. When I think about that, it is mind-boggling. When I think about the changes in my life, the changes he never got to see, it gives me pause. Where I am today and where I was 15 years ago could not be more different. Still, I am the same fatherless child that I became that morning.

It is true that time heals...somewhat. When I was recounting that morning again on this morning to dh, I did cry. I didn't have the raw, seething pain that I did then. Still, I felt it. I felt the distress, the out-of-control sorrow that comes when you realize you won't again see someone on this side of heaven. The difference, I suppose, is that now I can come out of that feeling. I can move beyond that raw emotion and move back into my life routine.

How amazing that is to me. God's plan for my life is always a bright surprise. The puzzle that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense.

If I had been given these little ones 20 years ago instead of now, I would have had to come out of that place immediately and I would have done a lousy job. I would have caused them to suffer while watching their mother deal badly with the loss of someone dear. I probably would have made them wonder what would happen if the same fate befell them one day.

So, here we are, 15 years later. Instead of burdening them with my sorrow, my babies are a balm to me. This year was especially meaningful because I could look at my five children like my father probably looked at us...with some annoyance, much gratitude, and an infinite awe in God's power to work miracle after miracle.

I took #s 1, 2 & 5 to Mass this morning and we prayed for my dad. I have no idea what the two oldest pray when he is their intention. Still, I know that it would please him that we are here thinking of him. That, even 15 years later, his memory lives on.

I miss you dad. Thank you for everything.

Yet these also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten;

Their wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants;

Through God's covenant with them their family endures, their posterity, for their sake.

And for all time their progeny will endure, their glory will never be blotted out;

Their bodies are peacefully laid away, but their name lives on and on.

At gatherings their wisdom is retold, and the assembly proclaims their praise.
Sirach 44:10-15

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I know, I said I wanted a quiet, prayerful Advent. Sometimes life gets in the way, I suppose. What we've been up to...

First Penance

#1 made her First Reconciliation the first weekend of December. It was busy (probably 40 families there) but well-done. It was prayerful, informative, and a great introduction to the Sacrament. Afterwards we celebrated quickly at Dunkin Doughnuts (while Dad got his hair cut)

and more later at the home of some friends. They threw her a lovely party, complete with lamb cake!

(sorry, it won't turn sideways :0(  )

Happy Birthday to me!

On the 13th (Feast of St. Lucy, see below), I celebrated my 44th year by attending Mass with all my little people and husband, eating a wonderful oyster-filled lunch (alone with a book!), and hanging out with my family. I am so blessed with my life and so thankful to celebrate another year on this crazy planet. (No pictures because someone will, undoubtedly, come to the conclusion that I am pregnant when, alas, I am merely stout these days - not helped by the case of Guinness gifted to me by my delightful brothers)

The Tree Saga..continued

We have been enjoying the tree, in all it's natural glory, but took some time out on the Feast of St. Lucy to string the lights. We actually put them on the night before while the kids were asleep and there was a great deal of squealing when they came downstairs to see it the next morning. I'm rather enjoying this piecemeal decorating, especially when we can celebrate a Saint or two along the way.

(someone keeps putting the St. Nicholas stuffed ornament on when I'm not looking...kind of our own version of elf on the shelf)

Family Fun

In a perfect fit with Gaudete Sunday, we got to celebrate and "be joyful" with my family, all of whom made the trip to gather for our "Christmas Eve Feast" and celebrate the memory of my dad. It's hard to believe 15 years have passed since he went home. I feel like I see or hear from him almost everyday as I interact with my little people.

Along with the good food and enjoyable company, I am pleased to announce that 3 of our 5 little people like sauerkraut mushroom soup! They may have Italian names but there is Slovak in there somewhere :0)

Some photos of the event (which also includes a gift avalanche for my children...ugh. That's a battle I will never win).

 Cheese balls make us dance

 Our gift-opening accompaniment
The best gift we got all year!
The next week brings a few more days of school (we were going to push and try to reach 100 days but that's not going to happen), a birthday, and Christmas...the actual one! How exciting that we've almost reached that glorious day. If I'm not back before then, have a most blessed holiday!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent...waiting "patiently"

This was the year it was going to be different. I got all the cards out right after Thanksgiving (yours is coming, Lisa...I put "Michigan" instead of "PA" Sorry ;op) and I bought all the gifts. They were even wrapped before the first candle was lit (who knew that I would receive grandmother's gifts via Amazon, unwrapped? Grrr). Anyway, the point is, I was done.

Being done would allow me all this time to be prayerfully waiting with my family for the Birth of Our Lord. Within these walls, that is what we've been trying to do; for the most part anyway. Outside, however, the pressure to rush into Christmas seems even more extreme than usual. I know it's probably the Dark One tempting my peace into annoyance. I'm doing my best.

I read this yesterday The Annual Advent Argument. It would seem that even Cardinal Dolan is trying to strike a balance while admitting that social pressure is sometimes unrelenting. I've thought and prayed and looked for a solution.

This is how it looks now:
A lovely-smelling but still bare tree and a stocking for Jesus. The stocking is being used to hold our "good deeds", offered to Jesus as a birthday gift. Each time one (or many of us) does something extra good, extra nice, or without any whining, it is written on a slip and put into the stocking. The kids have really gotten into this, even the 2-year-old.

The reindeer, by the way, is a Christmas card holder, brought into the marriage by my beloved. I could live without it but, what can you do? There are non-negotiables in marriage.

St. Nicholas visited us yesterday. That is another conundrum. Is St. Nicholas also Santa Claus? If so, does he come once or twice? Our line is that St. Nicholas inspired many other people, including Santa, to want to be loving and giving in order to celebrate the joy of Jesus's birth.

He only comes once to this house (we don't sign presents from Santa). The stockings are to hold goodies that, along with the gifts, come from mom, dad, and the relatives who, like Santa, want to share in the joy. Is it already causing problems? Some (#2 child). Still, they're not as troubled as if, say, they were still attending Catholic school where the Breakfast with Santa was held last weekend. That is a rant for another time. Or, maybe, they're teaching the whole St. Nicholas connection too. Who knows?

I know this is rambling. I've warned you about that before. I guess my ultimate goal is, like Cardinal Dolan suggests, a little bit each day with the biggest celebration on Christmas, the birthday of Jesus.

This week we will bring out the mangers and begin reading the Christmas Story. Then the carols and learning about the songs and how they relate to the season. Perhaps some lights on the tree (the relatives arrive next Friday). Ornaments to celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Stockings and everything else the last few days. Gifts, as always, don't arrive until Christmas Eve.

We'll see. Life is one big experiment. Ultimately we pray about it and do what we hope is pleasing to Him.

Wishing you a Blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception (yes, it's a Holy Day of Obligation). Stop reading and get yourself to Mass ;0)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Nicholas is coming to town...

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Around here that means:
Eating popcorn, watching Nicholas: the boy who became Santa then putting out shoes in hopes that they will be filled by some nice person wishing to emulate the goodness and caring of said Saint.
Please note: if you have some of the smallest feet, choosing rain boots instead of shoes may garner you a greater haul of loot ;0) (not all blondes are dumb)

After the drop...everyone got fruit except tiny man - he got a jar of baby food. Cute ;0)

Wishing you a day filled with joyous giving.

Make new friends

but keep the old,
one is silver and the other gold.

I forget, what was it, Brownies? Who knows. Anyway, we sang it when we were little and, hey, it turns out to be true!

I had a long-overdue meal with one of my "gold" friends last evening. She truly is solid gold. What a wonderful time we have, always, despite the fact that we are so different in so many ways. It is so nice to have a few friends with whom I never feel competition brewing. I'm not sure why that is (I wish I knew so I could keep it out of the other relationships) but I am happy for the break.

Anyway, it was wonderful to catch up, relive the "old days" (when I had two kids) and have a nice meal. What a great Advent treat.

Then, I came home and this was in my living room
The smell, which hit me when I opened the door, was AMAZING. What a wonderful surprise!

Now the decision whether to decorate or not, since I'm currently trying very hard to keep Christmas from creeping into Advent. We shall see. I think the 5 little people will have a difficult time waiting. But, that's the point, isn't it?

More on that later, I must go find the St. Nicholas video ;0)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

For those of you following along, it's the night before the first Sunday of Advent. That makes it the last day of the 2012 Liturgical Year. So, as in most things, we had ourselves a party...

First, we made some brownie pops

Then, hats and "blowers" as N would call them. Yes, I snapped the baby's elastic putting it on and yes, he is responding in kind. I am a terrible mom sometimes.

Next we all worked on our Advent Chain

It was easy to do with little ones, we did a calendar and counting exercise (score!) along with cutting and pasting and, most importantly, it's got great kid ideas for Advent.

Yes, I messed up the colors. Luckily no one but #1 child knows that yet.
Then comes the party...sparkling cider and our brownie pops. Yum!

They take their "clinking" very seriously!
We read tomorrow's readings and #1 led us in a very nice, spontaneous (i.e. LONG) Advent prayer.

Then jammies and Cinderella (it can't all be religious, people).

Wishing you a Happy New Year and a fruitful Advent. Oh, and happy December too!