Monday, December 30, 2013

On the sixth day of Christmas

We had our 100th day of school celebration!

I never know whether or not to do this but I've decided, since we have closer to 200 days than 180 in our school year, we may as well celebrate the half-way point. It's not really the 100th day, that was sometime during the week before Christmas, but we are always up for a party!

As always, we start with our 100 exercises. Jumping jacks, side bends, balloon bounce, hopping on one foot - all good ways to start your blood flowing on a cold December morning.

Then we moved on to some writing prompts. #1s 100th birthday party will include a "representative from the zoo" and Blondie answered "I would like 100..." with "baby brothers" ;0) He is cute!
We proceeded to make our pretzels (some for a snack now and some for dinner tonight) using the greatest pretzel recipe ever! then saw how many ways we could make "100" from our lunch fixins.

New this year is the "100 stickers" page. After thinking about it, I needed something more than just putting stickers on a page. We decided we would see how many prayers we could say today...could we reach 100? We got off to a good start with a decade of the rosary along with the Angelus at noon. I think we're at 36. Perhaps we can finish our 100 tomorrow before the new year arrives.

Wishing you a happy, healthy day, regardless of what number you're on. We are blessed!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy feast of the Holy Family!

From the  Noonday Angelus address...

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.

Getting soooo excited for the Extraordinary Synod in October!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The big switch

After being sick for 8 days, many of the little ones along with me, we were all finally well enough to do some room switching today. Mainly, it was time to finalize the "boys' room" (since the girls have been enjoying their space for a month now) and free up the nursery space for DH's office (it's really cold in his current office since the only heat source is a space heater...brr). It was even more pressing since I'll need an anteroom that can provide some space for reading other than bed during my rehabilitation month (if you missed it, ankle surgery, more later). I'm going to go insane anyway but maybe it will take longer this way.

So, here's the deal. Little man was already staying with his big brothers but we got his clothing and changing table/dresser moved in today along with the pictures and collectibles. It's now "all boy" ;0)

We also moved #1s bed back to the loft position. I give it 3 months until someone is sporting a cast.

Then, the office. I'm happy with the way it turned out; except the color. It was that way when we moved in and DH happily refers to it as "Tinker Bell puke" or something equally colorful. One day it will be muted. Not today.

We also moved in my sewing machine which will double as a desk for the oldest two who will be having their lessons on the second floor when I am captive there. (We did move the "mobile" to the boys' room eventually).

Things are always in flux around here. I like the setup though and I'm hoping that, by not walking past the boys' room at 5 AM, DH will prevent the early wake ups we've been having for a while now.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Joy to the World!

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government
shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tree trimming

Well, we missed the "Gaudete Sunday" trimming opportunity because we were exhausted after the crèche visit and two of us were quite sick this weekend so we finally got all the ornaments on tonight...we stuck with mainly the unbreakable ones and kept them above 2 1/2 feet. You know, that Mr. G...he likes shiny things :0)

Two post-trimming shots. I'm the ornament sorter so I can't take pictures, hand out the perfect ornament to the perfect person, fend off a toddler and still catch the perfect shot. I'm not that good.

Old school...

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Child #1 said "I think this has been the quickest Advent ever" and I have to agree. I don't know where it went exactly but here we are.

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was a great day. Lots of fun traditions and, most of all, a trip to our grandmother's house (aka "Bub") for the traditional Slovak meal. If you'd like more background, go read this first.

Since my dad's death, my siblings have been gracious enough to travel here to celebrate his life, including the traditional Christmas Eve meal. Sort of, anyway. Enough people have been added to the family that the meal is now quite watered down from the soup, pagach and bobalki of my youth. We now have pierogi, fish, shrimp, cheese and crackers...all sorts of yummy stuff. I can't help but think it's making my children soft ;0)

So, now that we've braved Slovak culture for a full week and learned to eat non-traditional fare (they have always been game for Indian, Chinese, etc. anyway) it's time to go old school. Tomorrow, on the actual day, we will enjoy the actual meal along with my mom, aunt, and Uncle D. I'm really hoping to continue this every year so that they can one day carry on the tradition (and if not, at least they will have fun memories).

Today, in preparation, was a day of cooking. My aunt is kind enough to make the mushroom soup tomorrow, my mom was kind enough to take #s3&4 for the day and #5 was kind enough to take a long nap so I grabbed my two sous chefs and we were off.
I love this meal because there are a lot of "repeat" things - make once, use twice. First I browned some butter (this is also a great meal to teach kids some awesome cooking skills) and then fried up some sauerkraut. While that was frying, I cooked some rice and added butter and sugar when it was finished cooking. The rice and some of the sauerkraut will be used for two types of pagach, which will be made tomorrow.

Never really considered how much butter goes into this meal but "a lot" is a good estimate

Always fry your sauerkraut...much better that way!
Here is a pagach photo I got off the Internet. This is what it's supposed to look like.

Mine will not look all flaky and good like this. My only goal is that it be edible. This is my first time and there are lots of little people around ;0)
Next comes the bobalki (or "sweet" and "sour" balls as they were known in our time)

First you make little balls of dough (yes, I used frozen bread dough since I was short on time. I do hope, one day, to actually make it from scratch). Then you bake them and there is this crazy thing about dumping boiling water on them and then adding the topping, poppy seed or sauerkraut. Get the nicknames now? I'm not a huge fan but, since we're going old school, they have to be there!

Raw dough organization, just like the old days!

The cooked balls and some boiling prunes (stay tuned for the latter)

So, here's the end result. The individual balls are too large because I always forget how much the dough will rise but otherwise, a decent attempt.

If you look at the first picture, you see a can of poppy seed filling. For some reason we have two of these in our basement. As such, I didn't buy plain seed to mix with honey but that's pretty much what you would do.
Next come the pierogi. No, we didn't have these at the meal growing up (I vividly remember only eating pagach and feeling very hungry until we got home). I am willing to add these, though, because the book says it's included in the traditional meal so that's good enough for me. I know why Bub didn't include them, though, because they are a good bit of work added on to the other stuff. It's definitely a labor-intensive meal!
See? There is actually a "book" ;0)

Filling and sealing the potato. I did the prune myself because they are troublesome things. You have to work up to that kind of skill. ;0)

Thankfully there are only 10 of us so 4 dozen should be just about right.
The meal will be wonderful because of the food but, most of all, because of the history and tradition. That is so important to me. Everyone has good memories of certain times during the year and this definitely stands out for me. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to share this part of my life with my kids and I do believe that my dad and Bub are happy as well. I just feel the peace when we're working together on this meal.
I said as much to child #1 and told her that Bub would have really loved her. She looked sad so I said, "well, Bub was born in 1903 so how old would she be now?" Her eyes got big, she swallowed and said, "110??!!" Yes, little girl...110.

We are blessed. Have a quiet and blessed Christmas Day!

Bub and me. Trust me, polka dot pants were in style in the '90's ;0)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ponderings in these last days..

I am stuck in bed with some kind of wicked sinus infection (thank you court house germs!) and trying my best to sip my grapefruit juice while I am catching up on articles. Since I am without the ability to put anything meaningful together right now, I thought I would pass along a few to ponder...

Keep Mary in Christmas - a great reminder to be thankful for the most important gift we receive this time of year.

Keep an Eye on the Camel - the roles for stars are limited but the supporting cast is just as important.

Showing Mercy - I never knew more than the first verse of this song. What a beautiful story that we can tell and then sing with our children! Bad me for not finding this before All Saints when the good king walked among us ;0)

I'm resting to be well for Sunday's celebration as middle child turns 5. We are blessed!

Happy last Sunday of Advent everyone - the week is finally here! Maranatha :0)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Miss You

Today has kind of sucked. I know, I'm not supposed to talk like that but if you're letting your kids read my blog, that's sort of a discussion for another time. Anyway, if you care about it, read on.

1. On Tuesday, on the way to jury duty (say hello to juror #4!), an I'm sure otherwise kind and responsible man, stepped on my foot. Yes, that foot. The one with the torn tendon. So, today I met with the ortho and we decided that the surgery needs to come sooner rather than later. Like in the next month. The problem of where to put my five kids for four weeks while I don't put any weight on my foot continues (I'm not even thinking about the required stairs to get to a bathroom, bedroom, etc...I'm too depressed as it is). So, say some prayers, this is going to take one big bit of coordination. Where is the "village" that is supposed to raise my children? ;op

2. Today is also the 16th anniversary of my dad's death. I'm not going to rehash it. If you missed it last year go here. I was doing good today until I was on my way home from the doctor and the wave of grief just kind of washed over me. I stopped in to church to say some prayers because that's where I go when I am sad or happy. Alas, the cleaners were working all around in front of the tabernacle. Being an Adoration day, the chapel was filled to capacity. Sometimes you just have to go home and say your prayers from your bed.

Today I am missing several people. I'm missing my dad who has been gone for 16 years. Gracious that's a very long time. I was just 29 when he died. That seems like a lifetime ago. There are so many things, good and bad, that have happened in that time. I guess that's why I was crying today. So many situations that could have used him were left unfulfilled.

I'm also missing my two dear friends who have moved on from here. It's not like we met weekly or anything but I just felt more solid with them around. I felt like there were two people nearby that really understood what I was going through at any moment. Knowing that they are hours away just makes me sad today.

Thanks for letting me be sad. I'm thankful, as always, for my life and everything and everyone in it, trying as it may be at times. I am blessed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where is your Joy?

I'm troubled and, instead of going on a rant, I will instead attempt to make this an educational pondering. We'll see how that goes.

This past Sunday, we in the Catholic faith celebrated "Gaudete Sunday". If you want to read more about that, go here Gaudete Sunday. This is the Sunday that we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath. The Sunday that we are called to be filled with Joy for the growing nearness of the birth of our Savior. It's always an exciting time when a baby is about to arrive. The fact that this baby happens to be the King of the Universe? Super-duper-duper exciting. Happy, happy, joyful time!

If you happen to be Italian, it's also Bambinelli Sunday, the day where all the little Italian kids bring the baby Jesus from their nativity set to St. Peter's to be blessed by the Pope.

A statue of the Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene is held up for the blessing at St Peter's Square on “Bambinelli” Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013.
A statue of the Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene is held up for the blessing at St Peter's Square on “Bambinelli” Sunday.


If this is your reaction, or if you find yourself getting highly agitated because people are not only putting up their Christmas tree but, GASP, decorating it, please take a deeper breath and count to ten. Also, if you would like to scream at people who wish you "Happy Holidays" instead of considering, "hey, maybe they celebrate a different holiday then I do at this time of year," for heaven's sake, consider that this may not be the best reaction.

I know, I know. It is maddening that people are doing it wrong. If only everyone were Catholic (and by that, I mean PRACTICING... you know, like ME) imagine how delightful the world would be! I'm not saying that we shouldn't be striving towards that. I'm also not saying that It's not difficult to live in the place we do at the time we do. Even among, how many of you aren't aware that the Catholic Mass is ALWAYS a capital "M"? Really, this drives me around the bend. If you can't get that right, how can I trust that you will follow anything else?

So, in this new liturgical year, I'm pledging to lead with love instead of criticism or, help me, "useful suggestions". It's up to me to evangelize my fellow man and show them the glory and grace of being Catholic, right? I am their window into the truth and fullness of the Catholic faith and all the blessings that flow hence. How, tell me, will I do that with my previously crabby pants attitude?

I'm also trying to become as educated as I can about my faith. I know, you're thinking, that means reading all the Catholic mom blogs I can find. Right? No, that's not what I'm doing. With all respect in the world to Catholic moms and their blogs, they are just that, moms. I'm willing to bet that most haven't spent years and years studying theology and I know none of them are ordained. (Yes, I know there are good priests and bad priests but, just like doctors, you have to do some things before they allow you to call yourself that).

I have only a small amount of time to read each day. I've found that I often come away from some of the "shiny" blogs feeling depressed instead of inspired. Perhaps that's me and my issue with which to deal. I've also noticed, though, that reading blogs in general has me feeling like I MUST comment on whatever subject is at hand. It may be helpful sometimes but, generally, I have to believe the person wrote the blog for their own need and not so much for my dis/approval. So, for now, I'm not going to spend much time with blogs when the result could be less than helpful for me or the blogger or the others reading. I'm heading over to the not-so-subjective side of things.

I'm currently reading The Evangelization Equation: Who, What, How by Fr. James Wehner I only got through the first few chapters yesterday but I HIGHLY recommend it. It is full of great insights about how to live your faith and pass it along to others. I'm getting all sorts of good love people where they are and help them move to where they need to go. Be a living example of all the great benefits that derive from following God's word. It doesn't always work but I'm guessing for most people, a little kindness will open the door more than telling them all the things they are doing wrong.

Ultimately I know in my heart that, whether or not I have a Jesse tree and whether or not I play Christmas music before Dec 24th at midnight, (or that I forgot to start reading Bambinelli Sunday  the first Sunday of Advent), I am doing what I can to raise my children in a way that pleases God. I know that because I am thinking about it and making Him part of each and every day around here. Could I be doing more? Always. Thankfully I also know that God is my loving | Father and, along with my Blessed Mother, I am a loved and cherished child. How, when I think of that, can I not be filled with JOY?

I am blessed!

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, December 16, 2013

Best Birthday Gift...

I love my Aunt. I know that because, when she teases me, I never get upset. I know she means it in the most loving way. Like my recent birthday gift...

I don't think she (the physician) ever stops being amused by my undergraduate English major. If I ever run again, look for it on the streets of Mt. Lebo ;0)

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's my birthday today and I didn't get what I wanted.

Does this happen to you? You make it really, really clear what you want. You talk about it constantly and still, it doesn't show up? Well, that happened to me today. I kind of knew it was going to happen but still, it is a little depressing. So, here's what happened instead.

Last night, DH took me out to dinner while our saintly sitter took a double shift with our kids. It's not that famous/expensive a place and it's not that far away (we walked) but it was still 90 straight minutes of time with my beloved. Talking about things, holding hands, laughing about big people stuff. Oh, and we shared a plate of calamari, just like the old days and just like the old days he took all the little baby octopi. Eating whole animals kind of grosses me out...
Then this morning, I was told to "sleep in" while my husband and little people made and brought me breakfast in bed. Three of them were on "toast duty". God bless my husband. I know that took an abundance of patience on his part.

I checked my email and found a wonderful assortment of greetings from friends far and near. I had to chuckle that the first arrived at 4:56 AM. Nothing like having a friend who is also the mother of a 3-month-old! Oh, I also went to search something on Google and this came up.

So, it's kind of cool cause you know, it's my birthday, but it's also a little creepy.

DH took #1 to Little Flowers and I finished baking off the saffron buns we had started on Thursday night. Considering the yeast was dead, they turned out a bit more like tea cookies but were tasty just the same. We dropped off a plate to the parish staff, wished them a "Happy St. Lucy Day" and headed to Mass.
Saffron....the magic ingredient

The second batch looked slightly better.

It is never a "great" Mass with these little people but I do try to get there on my birthday every year so it was such a blessing to hear a wonderful sermon about St. Lucy and our need to open our eyes to the light. More so with 4 of my 5 next to me.

We picked up #1 and then picked up our lunch (I don't cook on my birthday). We arrived home, ate and were greeted by my two very best friends. Again, what a blessing to spend my birthday with these two. It is such an amazing gift to sit and think and discuss with them. I always come away better for it.

They stayed long enough to witness the reenactment of St. Juan Diego's visit with Our Lady of Guadalupe and to share some after-play cupcakes.
St. Juan Diego meeting Our Lady with the bishop and narrator looking on

The understudy Our Lady looking on (the first one quit after the first scene - lol) while St. Juan Diego reveals his tilma to the bishop
This afternoon has been full of TV watching (yes, we do bad things here too ;0) ) and eating and pretty much anything I can do to avoid cleaning (my family is arriving tomorrow)...there will be time to do that later. Now, I'm enjoying my day and realizing that the world is full of "things" that we want. It's our human nature to look around, see what others have and think we should have it too.
Better, though, when we take the time to reflect on all the blessings that have been given to us by our Heavenly Father...the things we need. Having reflected on the day, I have to go back to the lyrics of a really bad song from the early '90s.
I do not want what I haven't got

I am blessed!

St. Lucy, pray for us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe to you!

I will let Archbishop Dolan talk about this, he always does a good job...A War For Women

We're having fun making tilmas for today and some buns for tomorrow (more on that later) and, it's just come to my attention that there is a play tonight and I am in charge of refreshments!

Good thing the audience was only promised popcorn and water ;0)

I wish you all a happy Feast of Our Lady. What a wonderful way for me to round out my 44th year (yes, tomorrow is my birthday!)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Immaculate Mary

Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary 

(sort of)!

The Immaculate Conception, Jose Antolinez (1650)
(don't you LOVE those chubby little cherubs?)
I was feeling a little bit like a pre-Vatican-two fan know, the people who say "yes, I realize the Church, in her wisdom, made all of these changes but, for me, I like it the old way so I'm sticking with that!" Let me explain.
Today is the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego, "the indigenous Mexican Catholic convert whose encounter with the Virgin Mary began the Church's devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe" who's Feast (Our Lady of Guadalupe), happens to be this Thursday. However, if you went to Mass today, you would have read the readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. This is because, when the Solemnity falls on a Sunday, they move it to Monday.
Following so far? However, when the Solemnity, which is a Holy Day of Obligation is moved, the obligation doesn't move with it. Basically, if you attended Mass yesterday, you met your obligation so no worry about that pesky two-Masses-in-two-days thing.
I will let my 8-year-old tell it...her response, when I explained it to her, "That's weak. People can go to Mass twice in two days!" So, that's what we did. I was pleased to see some of my other Catholic mother friends in the pews with their little people. I always enjoy that, though. I love little people at Mass.
My ultimate motivation, in the end, wasn't to "thumb my nose at The Man" by going today to have our own private Holy Day of Obligation (because if you think about it the logic doesn't follow anyway). We just went to Mass, my peeps and me. That's a wonderful thing any day of the week. The fact that we were able to think about Our Blessed Mother, her sinless soul, and what her "yes" means to us, well, that's just icing on the cake.
(Which reminds me, have I mentioned, it's my birthday week?? ;0))
Blessed Virgin, Conceived Without Sin, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Heavenly blessings

Right now, this is what I'm hearing from the other room...
"Clement, get in the boat. We need to go and find her."

"Yes, Sylvia. Is Dominic coming along?"

"He is, and John as well."
long pause as we hear sounds of sailing, a storm and rough travel...
"She's alive! Santa Chiara is alive!"

Yes, it's true that all these Saints didn't happen to be around one another during their Earthly time. Still, it makes you wonder if, once in a while, they all get together for a big game of heavenly hide-and-seek.

I'm hearing it right now because my dear friend decided to gift us with amazing peg dolls of certain patron Saints as a gift for helping them move. Like hanging out with delightful little people is worthy of repayment! Anyway, the beauty of these dolls is amazing to me (someone who struggles with stick people). What a blessing to my children to "see" their patrons and imagine them in all sorts of situations. How blessed we are!

St. John

St. Clare
St. Sylvia 

St. Dominic

St. Clement

All you holy men and women

pray for us!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The perfect cure for a rainy day...

Not sure if they'll be more excited about this or the fact that Uncle Dave is in town. Double bonus.

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

St. Nicholas, Pray For Us

Monday, December 2, 2013


while driving home from a play date this morning...

Son #1: I am going to San Diego!
Me: Why?
Son#2: So we can watch the San Diego Padres!
Blondie: I love Padre Pio!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas - Blog Link-up 2013

"I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by
We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus our Advent and Christmas on JESUS!
I find, in my life anyway, failing to plan means running around and not getting as much done as I would like. I don't stress that much these days, a wonderful grace I've been given, but I do feel badly when days go past and I know that I could have done more. The stress reduction is largely a result of a conscious choice I've made with my husband to do much less. My calendar is still too full for my liking but at least I know I won't be running around doing things that I feel pressured into and not what I have actively chosen.
That's a long-winded way to say that during Advent and the Christmas season, I work really hard to say "no" to all the society-imposed standards so that my family can say "YES" to the eager anticipation that comes from quietly, consciously awaiting the birth of our Savior. Here are a few ways we are KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS.
I should add, for those who don't know, we have five kids, aged 8 years to 20 months. That fact effects much of what we do and don't do every day, including Advent and Christmas.
1. Get the other stuff done early.
I know that there are people waiting for our yearly Christmas card with the latest picture and I know there are presents expected to come on December 25th. To make sure this is not something hanging over my head during Advent, I get it done early. Advent starts tomorrow and my Christmas cards and shopping are done (the wrapping will come along when I have time - I'm not that good!). Completing these two things make me happy that family and friend bonds will still be tended to but not at the cost of something more central in our family.
2. Get to the important stuff.
We try to keep our Catholic faith in the center of our family life every day. This is even more important when society bombards us with non-faith messages about the Christmas season (now this begins even before Thanksgiving? Ug). We try, first of all, to not watch network TV. The commercials are just too much for the little people around here. Watching a Charlie Brown special resulted in a house full of self-centered children with the gimmes. I even caught myself daydreaming about all the great things I could ask for this Christmas. So, even more now, we try to keep Christ as our focus. (Please don't think we avoid gift-giving in this house! We have just chosen to emphasize the joy that comes from giving as opposed to receiving - see "VeggieTales" below.)
* Family Activities - Lighting the Advent wreath with prayers at dinner, hanging the Jesus stocking (the kids take turns suggesting good deeds that they or their siblings have done which are then written on a slip of paper and placed in Jesus's stocking as our gift to Him) and family rosary every Sunday afternoon all add extra moments that help bring us back to what is important - the gift of Christ's birth. We haven't been able to make it work as a family yet but our eldest has had the opportunity to serve once monthly at a local soup kitchen. Her tales of service have made it something the little ones look forward to joining in one day. They all enjoy participating in Operation Shoebox and the Angel Tree at church. For family movie night, I suggest The Toy That Saved Christmas, a VeggieTales classic!
* Decorating - This is still a work in progress. For the last two years I have gotten a good deal on a delivered Christmas tree so it's usually up by the first week of Advent. This alone can be an opportunity to shift the focus away Christ and back to gift-getting. So, last year and hopefully from now on, we will take our time. The tree is put up when it arrives but it stays bare until, little by little, in conjunction with other religiously-based activities, we add decorations. Usually it ends up with the family decorating it a few days before Christmas. That works for us. Then, of course, it stays that way until at least Epiphany so that we can enjoy it for the entire Christmas season.
The undecorated tree and Jesus stocking
* Keeping it centered on the faith - We are blessed to have two family birthdays in the house during Advent so we have a few opportunities to celebrate and break up the quiet waiting (little kids are impatient, have you noticed?). We are trying to instill the importance of waiting to the kids but it's also fun to mark the great celebrations that happen throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Here are a few big ones around here...
  - Happy New Year! - Each year we have a New Year's party on the first day of Advent (or on the Eve, depending on what works) to celebrate the beginning of the Liturgical Year.
last year's "Advent Eve" party - we made our Advent chain and had a celebration :0)
- St. Nicholas Day - Every year on the evening of December 5th the kids line up their shoes by the front door. We spend the evening watching videos and reading books about St. Nicholas. This is an excellent opportunity to teach the little ones about the importance of giving. It's also a good way to bridge the gap with Santa. This year my 8-year-old is making a list of "St. Nicholas Around the World" which tells his name and the traditions in various countries. We don't emphasize Santa and we don't ignore him. He is part of society so the kids may as well know the link so that they can educate their friends ;0) (not sure if it's good or bad but it usually ends something like "Santa comes to our house on December 6th...we call him St. Nicholas).
After St. Nicholas made his stop
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception - We make sure to discuss the meaning of this Feast and spend the day talking about Mary and her important part in the birth of Christ. This is such a great way to reinforce the importance of saying "yes" to God! I usually give the kids their nativity sets so that they can start thinking about the journey to Bethlehem. They enjoy moving the pieces around and playing with everyone (Jesus, of course, isn't there yet)
We also try to visit the Nativity downtown on or around this day...our own journey to the manger and a nice way to spend a day with the family.
- St. Lucy Day - This is the day we put the lights on the tree and learn all about the life of St. Lucy. There is usually a wreath of monkey bread with candles as well ;0)
I think that is the color and hug St. Francis hanging...St. Nicholas gift!
- Christmas Eve - I am of Slovak ancestry and this has always been a big day in my family. We have a traditional meal of Slovak foods and talk about the symbolism of different traditions (like leaving the lights off during the day so that we are very literally "waiting for the Light"). I am so thankful that we are able to pass these traditions, this family-centered, non-commercial time, to our children. So many fond memories of my childhood revolve around this day.
- Christmas Day - We typically start our day at 7 AM Mass as a family. It is early but the kids know that we always begin by greeting Jesus (it's His birthday, after all!) and giving thanks through the Holy Mass. After we share that time, they are free to come home and open their gifts. We also bake bread as a family that day and generally relax and celebrate the Birth of Our Lord!(I put away two or three gifts per child to open during the 12 days of Christmas, one specifically on Epiphany, after our house blessing).
- Epiphany - We always go from room to room and bless our house after Mass on this day. The kids have been dressing up as the Magi and it's a great tradition that teaches them that Christmas lasts more than a day as well as the importance of using our gifts to please Jesus. This is the day that all the slips are taken out of the Jesus stocking and read aloud as an offering to Him.
We also had Jesus and the Blessed Mother that year ;0)
3. Doing what works for your family - There are so many wonderful ways to keep Christ in Christmas. Sometimes so many that it is overwhelming. Part of keeping the stress level low is saying "no" to some of the possibilities. We haven't yet done a Jesse Tree, though I can imagine adding that at some point. This year we won't do an Advent calendar but instead stick with only the countdown paper chain that has a bible verse or prayer idea for each day. I am looking at my Jesse Box that arrived today and I know that I will save that for Easter this year. I try to add one or two new ideas each year. Sometimes they work and become traditions and sometimes they don't. Regardless of what we choose, as long as we concentrate on prayerfully waiting for and then celebrating the miracle of Christ's birth, we consider it a success.
Wishing you all the joy of this wondrous season. We are blessed!
Question - for all of you here for the "frenzy" - if you have or had little ones, what was the best Advent tradition you've kept through the years?
Visit these participating blogs for awesome posts about Keeping Christ in Christmas!

 Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Coffee Moments with Sam         The Light of Hope
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others
Mommy Bares All         Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH
Canadian Catholic Mom            Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling      Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith               Boldy Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home            Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Campfires and Cleats     How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Home to 4 Kiddos            Keep Christ in Christmas
Homeschooling With Joy        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique’s Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas
Our ABC Life:  An Advent Update