Christmas 2016 in Photos

I have legitimately no idea what day it is, but my calendar told me to post today. I haven’t eaten a real meal in like a week, and I have a wedding to be in/help with a little bit in like FOUR DAYS and yeah, no real thoughts.

 

We (finally) bought a tree because we abide by the liturgical calendar darn it, and certainly not that we’re lazy at all.

The kids decorated it, and then Buddy was devastated when we were finished. He’s a…special boy.

They also decorated cookies, which was less decorating and more eating sprinkles by the spoonful. So that was super fun.

The first family Christmas was a rousing success. My kid got a perfume lab, which is apparently the most exciting thing ever. Buddy did a little liturgical dance during the Nativity Play. There was tinsel. And kringle. Totally awesome.

We did presents from Mommy and Daddy on Christmas Eve night. I feel like we’ve finally hit our stride of celebrating Christmas. Everyone gets to spend time with family, and we even have time together as our little family.

Joey loves his Mater chair. He refuses to get up from it.

Santa came overnight and it was delightful. Squeaks got a Flutterbye, which was the one thing she desperately wanted. Of course, two minutes later it got stuck in her hair and she hates it now and won’t touch it. Of course.

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Someone (*cough*my mother*cough*) gave Buddy a motorcycle that makes noise. He plopped his 16-month old cousin on the back and took off. We haven’t seen him since.

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My niece hates everyone except her mom. I was literally there when she was born and have seen her almost every single day since then and when I hold her IN FULL VIEW of her mother, she shrieks like I’m having her put on an orphan train.

Except my husband. She looooves Buzz. Will go with him anywhere. Or sit with him for a long time. I don’t get it.

But it’s adorable.

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My sister realized we have (DECORATIVE) candles in our bedroom and finds it hilarious. So she gave us a lovely gift.

I’m burning it right now.

(IN THE LIVING ROOM. NOT LIKE THAT PERVERTS.)

Final family Christmas was at our house the next morning. We had a wonderful brunch with my in laws and the BRIDE AND GROOM OMG and no one even caught the stomach flu (fingers crossed) so YAY!

Buddy will not take off his firefighter costume. Like, we bathe him and he demands to put it right back on. It’s been days. It’s hilarious.

It was a successful Christmas I believe. We spent wonderful lovely time with everyone we love and got to celebrate the Incarnation. Super awesome.

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Halfway

We’re halfway through our last week of the semester here at L’ecole Agony and Ecstasy, and as usual, I feel like I’ve learned more this year than my actual school-aged child.

(Part of that is probably because, try as I might, I cannot get excited about learning suffixes. Yes it’s a big deal I suppose. But seriously.)

If you’re, well, my mom, you probably remember that this summer I meticulously planned the year. And that was great. To a point. I absolutely love some things about the way I planned it, and I hate (and so have ignored) some of the other things.

(YAY HOMESCHOOLING!!! You get to stop doing what you hate doing!!!)

(Also statistically higher test scores and greater demonstrated intelligence.)

(WHEE!!!)

I love the way I planned out the things I need to do every week. That has been amazing. I know exactly where I should be for this point in the year, and I don’t have to worry about finishing the books, because I know I will. My lesson planning (which last year was a good chunk of the morning on the weekends) now takes me about 20 minutes on a Saturday.

I built in a good chunk of vacation days/weeks too. Again, an awesome benefit to planning. I know I have enough days/hours to satisfy the state should it ever become an issue, but we also get to take guilt-free breaks pretty frequently.

(Like the coming huge break we have for Christmas and New Years.)

(Which is awesome because it turns out we have a huge family wedding on New Year’s Eve, which I didn’t know about when I planned the year.)

(Because the bride and groom hadn’t met yet.)

(I’m really excited about this wedding guys.)

I love that I built in  a lot of seasonal stuff. I’ve been trying really hard to keep the liturgical seasons a part of our family life and so I scheduled certain things for Advent, Lent, Easter, etc. I bought all the books this summer and planned everything out so now I literally just have to do the readings and stuff I already planned, which is a huge departure from my attempt last year which involved me sitting on the couch the night before Ash Wednesday googling “What to do with a six-year-old for Lent???”

(Guess how well that worked.)

Things haven’t gone completely according to plan, of course. What does? Certainly nothing in my life. Just like last year, I figured out that I hate a few of the books I had picked out. I HATE our American history book. Like, for serious. It is so stupid, and at the same time heavy-handed. I just, ugh. Do not like. Because she’s so little, we’ve been able to get around it by my reading to her from the parts that aren’t horrible, and supplementing with other books and materials.

You might think the fact that I have an MA in history would prove useful here, but it’s remarkably unhelpful as I just cannot get her interested in Vatican Ostpolitik. I know, right? Maybe in second grade.

I hate a bunch of the stuff I thought I’d do for religion too. I had this book on the lives of the saints for kids but once I started reading it it’s really dumb (Jesuits, pssh), so I found another series that I really like. We aren’t as strict about doing a bunch of the stuff I thought we would, but she’s learning the Sacraments and the commandments, and we do a family rosary and read the Gospel for the coming Sunday every Friday. Overall, I like the organic nature of our religion class more than “let’s sit down and memorize this.” Last year we were more based on the Baltimore Catechism, which is wonderful. But this year, as she prepares for her first Communion and first Reconciliation next year, I want our faith to be a part of her every day life in a way that she recognizes.

My favorite subject, Latin, is going really well, but not in the way that I necessarily thought it was going to go. Once again, I failed to realize that MY KID IS SIX. So obviously we aren’t sitting down and declining nouns. But she’s learning vocab words really well and even uses them around the house which I think is adorable. We’re learning prayers in Latin (and I do mean we, because I grew up int he ’90s and despite the fact that my mother is the most conservative person I know, nobody taught me anything except the sign of the cross in Latin. And then I took it in college at a Lutheran school, so sol there too.) So that’s been really cool.

I haven’t had a baby-related breakdown yet this year (probably because no one I know has one.) (Still!) (Counting it as a win!) It’s definitely a lot more difficult than last year, since she already pretty much knew everything from K5 and this year I have to actually teach her stuff? Like a real kid? What?

But I am so thankful for this opportunity to raise our family this way, despite the work it sometimes creates. I absolutely could not do it without Buzz’s support, or my family’s help. But since I am lucky enough to have those things, this is an unbelievable blessing for us.

Here’s hoping 2017 is as wonderful!

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Romantic weekend!

With the in-laws and a bunch of kids!

(My husband is so nice to me. For reals. Every year I give him a list of death anniversaries for which he’s required to host a dinner, and then tell him where we’re going on vacation with my parents.)

We did our traditional weekend in Galena last weekend, and it was every bit as magical as it always is. We’ve been going since before I was born (I say we because I did the math and it was alarmingly close to 40 weeks before I was born. Eww.) and it is so special to share with my kids now.

The couple in the room above us also had a magical weekend. A very loud magical weekend, multiple times a night. A magical weekend I was really worried I would have to explain to my six-year-old. A magical weekend I was awake for not because of similar sextytime reasons but because my three-year-old got scared and was only comforted by sleeping on my husband’s face with his feet in my neck.

And they say marriage isn’t sexy. Lies, I tell you.

Anyway.

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We caravanned with my parents and sister, so it took us roughly eighteen hours to make the 175 mile drive. But that was okay because we had coffee and I stopped and bought cinnamon rolls at a Kwik Trip and yeah I know that sounds super janky, but you know what? BEST DAMN CINNAMON ROLLS I’VE EVER HAD. So there.

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Seriously. Cannot explain how amazing it is to see these two little people, people whom I wasn’t sure I would be lucky enough to have, in my most favorite place on earth.

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And now that we have Poppyseed???? SERIOUSLY GUYS it’s amazing.

No there’s no hotel sex. But look at those little heads!!!

I tried to take a nice picture with my kids. One complied. I’ll let you guess which one.

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Cooper even flew to meet us!

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J Kids Christmas album cover.

Buddy has some thoughts on how amazing hot chocolate is.

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She wanted to play fancy ladies so I let her play with makeup and gave her contact dermatitis. Oops. Oh well, we had fun.

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On Sunday it snowed, which was magical because we were leaving and didn’t have to walka round in it.

(Or at least it was magical until I turned into my mother and flipped out about the dangerous roads.)

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And of course, the sign of a good trip, both kids passed out in the car after about ten minutes.

Already can’t wait for next year.

Advent for Kids (and Yourself)

Guys, I think Advent is my favorite liturgical season. I love the solemn nature of it- we’re not celebrating, not yet. But it’s not the same kind of solemn as Lent, which is mostly just a bummer.

(I’M KIDDING. Lent is lovely as well. Just more…intense.)

I also love that there are so many things that we can do as a family to mark the season. Again, Lent is so intense. Other than the stations of the Cross, it’s hard to come up with cute craft ideas for hey-let-me-explain-all-of-salvation-history-to-you. I know they’re out there, I do. But it’s just harder to ram home without being depressing..

And let’s be honest, I’m not doing any crafts anyway. I hate crafts. HATE THEM. Creativity and making a mess. Literally my two least favorite things.

ANYWAY. Homeschooling, we obviously have a lot of freedom to mark Advent and prepare for the Birth of the Lord. I have a six year old and a three year old, and frankly, the three year old is just phoning it in. He’s present for everything that we do, and we sing Advent songs with him and stuff like that. But he doesn’t really get it.

(Things he also doesn’t get: going to the bathroom IN THE BATHROOM. Fingers crossed by next Advent.)

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But Squeaks is almost seven, and she totally gets it this year. We have an Advent wreath (with flameless candles, natch) and so she “lights” it and we all read a devotion every night that we have dinner together. (Which okay hasn’t been much this week but hopefully that will get better.) We’re using the Catholic Family Advent Prayers and Activities book by Susan Hines-Brigger. I’m really loving it so far. It has a prayer, scripture passage, and discussion for every day of advent.

Also lots of craft ideas. (Blech.)

We also have an Advent book we got through Seton, the company we use for homeschooling curriculum. It’s int he Living and Celebrating our Catholic Traditions series, and it’s lovely too. There s a great story for each week that we use for school, and again, tons of crafts.

The one I’m actually going to do with her is a paper chain that leads to an empty manger, and then we glue Jesus in on Christmas morning. That sounds cute. (And easy.)  Everything in that book is reproducible too, so you can use it for years with different kids or even pass it on to family.

We do have an Elf on the Shelf, which I know is anathema to many Catholic families. But for us, it’s totally fine. I don’t see any reason to abstain from the non-heretical parts of secular life, and we have been able to use the Elf (Cooper) to talk to us about how it’s not important that we’re good for Santa, but rather that we need to make ourselves ready for Jesus to come at Christmas and the end of the world by being good children.

He hangs out at the Nativity a lot.

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The biggest, and also smallest, thing we’ve started doing is keeping Squeaks up with us to say a rosary at night. Buzz and I would say rosaries separately during the weekdays, but together on the weekend. And that was such a nice thing for us that we decided to include Squeaks for Advent. She LOVES it. She (against all odds) is able to sit calmly and quietly and say the prayers with us. She’s also learning a lot of the mysteries, which she is very proud of and makes my heart as a mother burst literally every night. It’s also a great way to teach her prayers that we’ve forgotten to pass on, like the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, and the Memorare.

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But it’s not all about the kids, right? I mean, I’m a firm believer in the concept that if your own spiritual life is empty, you can give nothing to your children. And also that the easiest way to pass on the faith to your children is to let them see you doing it. And we all know I am ALL ABOUT THE EASE OF THINGS. So I’ve decided to make sure that I made this Advent count for myself, too.

I’ve begun some more physical devotions- veiling, making sure I go to confession regularly, attending Eucharistic Adoration, etc. Those have been a wonderful way to make my actual time reflect my sense of waiting and hope and the desire to make myself ready for God, whenever He comes again.

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I also downloaded the Magnificat Advent 2016 app. It’s available on all platforms for $1.99, or $2.99 for the ebook format if you want it on kindle. This  is amazing, guys. It has a really user-friendly interface, prayers for morning, evening, and night, the Mass for the day, and additional prayers, songs, and rubrics (like for a penance service, blessing of the Advent wreath, etc.)  I am really, really enjoying it. HIGHLY recommend, and I am not a normal Magnificat girl. I can’t get into it. But this is amazing for me.

(And if you do the app it sends you touch reminders. SCORE.)

Finally, I’m switching up my “good-for-me” reading that I do every  morning. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but basically I take about half an hour before the kids get up to read a selection from the Bible, the Catechism, and a book about parenting or faith or whatever (anything except murders- I’ve been really into thrillers lately, guys.) I abandoned my Catholic Guide to Depression (ironically, AMAZING!) and am slogging my way through Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It’s a slim book, but if you’ve ever read anything Ratzinger has written, um, don’t expect a quick read. I’m absolutely loving being able to a.) focus on exegesis again, something I haven’t done since grad school, and b.) turning little parts of my day towards the anticipation of the Lord.

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So, what do you do for advent? I’d love more (non-craft) suggestions!