Seven

Dear Eva,

Today you turn seven years old, baby girl. I can’t believe it. Seven is not a toddler. It’s not a preschooler. It’s not even a small kid. It’s a verifiable big kid who can go places and do things all on their own. 

This is insane to me. In my head, you’re still the little girl I saw for the first time on Holy Thursday. You’re still the baby that handed me her doll when I came over for the first time. You’re still the sweet little one I would hug that summer and to whom I would whisper how much I would always love you because even if I wasn’t around forever I wanted you to maybe have a flash of a memory of how much I loved you.

But things worked out and you’re my seven-year-old now. And I have never been given a more precious gift than when God and Daddy gave me the chance to be your mommy.

I have had six birthdays with you, made six cakes, blown up six million balloons, thrown six parties. I have gotten you up and sung happy birthday to you six times. I have cuddled you a little bit longer for six years because on today of all days the years seem to be going faster. 

I wrote last week about how I try to be thankful for my life, just being here, and your birthday makes me renew that pledge. Your mama only got to spend one birthday with you, the one where she gave you life and welcomed you into the world. I am forever  cogniscent of each and every precious birthday I get to celebrate with you, my beautiful daughter. 

Being your (and your brother’s, but this is your day) mommy is the best thing I’ve ever gotten to do. Watching you grow into a beautiful daughter of God is the greatest thing I will ever do. Your soul is my greatest jewel and honor, and I am so thankful that I get to be here to help get you to heaven. 

I can’t wait to see what you do this year, precious one. 

Love, 

Mommy

Full Face using only Bare Minerals!

I’m a Bare Minerals girl. I’ve always been into makeup, but Bare Minerals is probably the first high end brand I got into and IT CHANGED ME. My mom gave me a little sampler kit for Christmas seven years ago and TAKE MY OFFSPRING I AM YOURS NOW BARE MINERALS!

I even wrote about it here. And guys. I had no idea what 2011 would have in store. 

I used their stuff exclusively for a bunch of years (including for my wedding) and while I have branched out, I still can’t pass up their products. I use a lot of the bareskin stuff now, but for this look I went old school.


Today I did a neutral light face and a gray smokey eye with my bare Minerals products.


First, moisturizer and prime. I use the BB skin primer and it’s amazing. Basically light coverage and a primer together. 

I use the correcting concealer in the little pot, so I like to pat it on before applying powder foundation. I use it under my eyes, andon any blemishes I can find. (Like that volcano on my chin.) 

Then I build coverage using a densely packed brush and the Orginal mineral foundation (I use the color light. Shocker.) 

Instead of using a setting powder, I go over the whole face with the Perfecting Veil. I don’t have a great contour product from them, so I stuck to blush (tropical  sunset) and highlighter (Ready Luminizer in That Magic Moment. 

Lips are a combo of Moxie lipstick in Be Brilliant and Be a Star 


My eyes are a fairly traditional look using the Nudes palette from a few years ago. I used Tranquil as the base, highlight; sonnet as the crease color; and priceless to deepen the outer v. 

Finally finished with my lashes- Flawless Definition mascara and my brows, which is cheating a little bit. For awhile they discontinued the powder brow product and so I found a perfect dupe on Amazon. It’s a super unknown brand and probably all chemicals that will kill me but it worked really well for me.

Thankful

Six years ago today my husband lost his wife. My daughter lost her mother, whom she’d never really remember. A hole was ripped in people I would come to love very soon afterwards that nothing can ever fill, no matter how happy and fulfilling our lives are now.

There’s nothing I can do about that. And it sucks.

I can do some stuff though. I can be here for my husband. I can tell my daughter stories I’ve learned from other people so it feels like they’re her memories, like her mama is still here with us not only in spirit. I try to do those things every day, and more so on days like today. 

The biggest thing I can do, though, is so simple. I can be thankful. 

I am thankful for my husband. We don’t agree about everything. We are very stubborn. We have our share of disagreements and yeah, sometimes I look back at skinny, free 2010 me and wonder what happened and WHY. But I am always, always thankful for him. I am constantly reminded that I could be without him. In the blink of an eye, my life and marriage could be over and I can never forget that. I am so so thankful to have had four and a half years of marriage with him already. 

I am thankful for my children. I get to stress about birthday parties. I get to potty train. I get to lie awake at night and worry about how she’s feeling and whether I’m doing the right thing or whatever. I am so unbelievably privileged that I get to do that every day. 

I am thankful that I get to live in my dream home, happily and healthily. 

I am thankful that I get to be 29, even though I’m mad about turning 30. I am thankful to have this time with my mom, with my sister, with HER mom. I am thankful to be friends with her brother’s new wife and watch them start their family. I am thankful to be here to see my niece and when my brother falls in love and gets married.

I am thankful for budgeting and sick kids that climb in bed with me and then need help with their own blankets at 3:30am and gross colds and grocery shopping and taking out the trash and those few quiet minutes at the end of the day when my husband and I are finished with everything we need to do and can just be together. 

I am so lucky, and I am so thankful. 

I always thought real highly of her.

On Saturday, it was 18 years since my Grandma died.

To be honest, I can’t believe that. Because I was 11 when she died. I remember that. I remember everything about that morning. I remember my dad waking us up, and standing at the back door while my mom cried. I remember coming here- to her house, to my house, and my wonderful father who knew nothing about how to handle children and death put us in the the family room and turned on Cartoon Network. Pink Panther was on. I remember sitting in the kitchen with our priest while horrible things happened in the living room. I remember looking at my mom and Grandpa and wondering what they were going to do now, what the hell any of us were going to do  now that she, the biggest personality and responsibility in our lives, was gone.


I don’t like those memories, of course. I’d much rather have happy memories of trips taken together and things she taught me and the sound of her laughter, like the memories I have of my Grandpa. (Even though I bitched and whined through all the trips. Because I was an entitled little brat.)

I don’t have those. Alzheimer’s robbed me of them. I have more, probably, than my brother and sister. I remember what it felt like to cuddle with her, vaguely. I remember how she said my name. I remember how she cried for me when I went to visit her in the hospital once when I was seven or so and I got really upset and then my mom got upset and she loved us so much and was such a good mother that she cried with us while my mom rocked me in the hospital chair. That’s pretty much it for “good” memories.


But what I do have is, I think, far more important. I have an understanding of her, and I have an understanding of the duty of sacrificial love.

First, I know so much about her and her family that I feel like I have all those memories. She was such a wonderful person and raised such wonderful people that I feel like by knowing my mom, by being best friends with my mom, I know her. I know stories about her parents and her brother and her marriage and her kids and her quirks and just everything about her. I know that she was the best mother in the world. I know that she rivaled me for love of buying thing, just ANYTHING. I know that she was so fiercely protective of her family’s name that she was known to do things like fudge the odd birth date because surely something had gone wrong and that really was a 13-lb preemie. (It didn’t happen often. But when it did, Mary Betty was there with her white out. Just get yourself to to confession too. Because the only thing more important than our family name was the Church.)

I know that she would take my mom out of school and go out to lunch with her. I know she loved and ENJOYED my mom and my aunt with a ferocity and depth that frankly I’ve only seen replicated in my mom and sister. (I love my children more than life itself, but when it’s naptime I’m not polishing any mary janes. I’m taking a nap as well.)

I know that she and my Grandpa had an amazing marriage. A true Christian sacramental union that she honored above all else.


Second, I know all this not only because of the stories and the strength of her personality (my sister wrote on Saturday that it was a true testament to her character that not a day goes by that we don’t think or talk about her, even though the last meaningful interaction we had with her was when we were toddlers) but because of how everyone loved and took care of her in the end.

Alzheimer’s is not a pretty disease. It robs you of the person you love and usually turns them into someone who is afraid of and mad at you all the time. In my worst nightmares, I can’t imagine that being the case with my mom or Matt. But it was what my mom and Grandpa had to deal with every single day, for close to a decade. She actually died of Alzheimer’s. Not anything else. They took such good care of her that she died, at home, comfy and warm and as happy as she could be in the circumstances because her brain literally stopped telling her heart to beat. That is virtually unheard of with this disease, and an unbelievable testament to my grandfather’s love.

My sister said something to him years later about how much that meant to us, that he did that for her (and for us) and he just shrugged and said, “Well, I always thought real highly of her.”

He thought so highly of her and their marriage that he gave up everything in his life and watched the woman he loved suffer for ten years because that was his duty as her husband. Both of them gave us an unbelievable gift- watching the sacrifice of the Cross play out in every day life. When I got married thirteen years after she died, I did so knowing that I was making a covenant with this person for life. It was not sunshine and roses but real, gritty, sacrificing love. That has changed the way I look at everything. My parents, my children, my husband, my marriage, the entire world.

And that gift is far more significant than any happy memory I could have had.

Good Reading

Being fairly boring, I’m used to coming late to everything from episodes of Sherlock and Game of Thrones (still haven’t seen the Red Wedding and yeah I know it was like ten years ago already) to acronyms (“Guys I’m tired AF today. Guys? Where are you going? Come be my friends!”) So it makes sense that this year, 2017, I’ve just discovered how awesome Goodreads is.


I love to read. When I was little I would read while I walked and then I’d walk into things, because I’m not that coordinated. (I walk into stuff normally, even without the book.) I gave up Nancy Drew books for Lent the year that I was 8. I got up at 2am on Sundays to read as much as possible before going back to the Lenten fast. Literally my favorite thing about my iPhone is the kindle app that lets me read a book while it looks like I’m checking the weather or something. People get so touchy when you whip out a book in front of them. Sheesh. It’s not my fault you’re boring and I’d rather be reading by myself.

I have always dreamed of a way of recording everything I read. For a while I even had like a tumblr thing but I had to set it up and I’m just not that technological. Also it was like 2004 so really, nobody wanted to read that shit. Goodreads is amazing for that. I get to record every book I finish and write a review if I like, which I do like because I HAVE SO MANY OPINIONS AND ONLY SO MANY FRIENDS GUYS WHERE ARE YOU GOING????


I read like I watch TV. I don’t always remember all the crappy, quick, but pleasant books I read. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t remember all the crappy Bravo shows I’ve ever watched either. But it’s nice to see them all in one place, because otherwise you’re standing at the library going “Have I read this Elin Hilderbrand?”

(Because the synopsis doesn’t help at all. Somebody runs away to Nantucket and falls in love with the most inappropriate person ever and has 18 bottles of Sancerre over about 400 pages. Lovely. Cute. Done in an afternoon.)

I love that I can keep track of the books that I’m reading for different things, too. I like to only read one book at a time, and I do. Mostly. But lately, I’ve had one “real” book going, a kindle book for when I’m stuck with boring people or in lines, book club book, and my prayer group book. Oh and the “good for me” book that I read every morning. So that’s five that I have going at one time, and it’s nice to track my progress and not feel overwhelmed.

Anybody else get overwhelmed by their books? No? Just me? Okay.


I haven’t done too much shelving and stuff yet, because I own a crap ton of books (the true measurement) and I don’t have time and I don’t want to to do it halfway because that will bug me. So maybe someday. For now, I’m loving tracking what I’m reading.

I also am doing the reading challenge this year- I originally did 60 books, figuring a little more than one a week was okay for the way my life is right now. (Those small people ALWAYS NEED SOMETHING.) But after a week and hitting ten percent, I realized that when I’m focused on reading, and counting all the religion/prayer group/book club books I read a ton more than I thought. So I bumped it up to 100.


If you read at all, love keeping track of things (I LOVE KEEPING TRACK OF ALL THE THINGS!!!!) or want fun recommendations from your friends, seriously, download this app or visit the website.

 

THE WEDDING OF THE CENTURY

OR AT LEAST SINCE AUGUST WHEN WE LEARNED OF THE BRIDE’S EXISTENCE.

(Kidding. I totally knew before then, because I’m in the inner circle.)

(The groom just didn’t.)

(This relationship is on a need to know basis.)

ANYWAY.

This wedding guys. It was amazing and beautiful. I’m Catholic, and I love our marriage ritual and the place it has within the liturgy. But sometimes you cant tell that the bride and groom just don’t care. This wedding was not Catholic, but it was one of the most heartening Christian weddings I have ever been to. God was at the center of everything, and I am sure He will bless their marriage because they take solace in Him.

It began, as per usual with this wedding, with a cluster…ahem. Buzz and I split up. He took the kids to his grandparents, I had to head to the bachelorette party. My car is bigger, and we had a metric crapload of stuff, so I packed it all in my car. The mother of the groom arrived to drive down with me. We bundled up, queued up some Christmas music, and turned the key in the ignition.

And nothing happened.

Of course.

I called AAA, we waited for them to come, and they told me it was something that coudln’t be fixed that day.

Of course.

So I rented a car super fast, cringing only a little when I heard the number of digits in the price, and moved ALL THE STUFF from my dead car to the new rental car.

And we finally hit the road! Just in time to hit rush hour in Chicago.

Of course.

Made it to the hotel, had a comedy of errors that I’m saving for another post, and finally got to the bachelorette party. Where I learned all sorts of things about my friends’ husbands. Wow.

Anyway, the next day we set up for the wedding and had the rehearsal. img_6934

I would like to believe that my children stole the show, but honestly, the bride and groom were so adorable I think they might have beaten us.

The next morning Squeaks got her hair done at a salon and it was easily the most impressive thing she’s ever been through.

There was glitter hairspray you guys. And the bride looked beautiful as well.

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I figured I’ve spend enough money on makeup so I sat on the floor and did my own.

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Getting ready was so much fun. I’ve only been in my sister’s wedding and I was too busy trying not to puke everywhere (Thanks, Fetus Buddy) that I don’t remember much of the part before. This was super fun.

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The bouquets were made from the Anne of Green Gables book where she gets married. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT. I have it in a vase in my dining room right now.

(That’s a lie. It’s in a wine bottle.)

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I didn’t take any pictures during the ceremony because it turns out Protestants stand during their whole wedding ceremony. Huh. Who knew. I certainly did not, which was why I bought the stripper shoes. Oh well.

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I can’t tell you how much this wedding meant to us. Michael, is, without a doubt, one of the most special people in the world to me. When I met Buzz, I was very, very nervous about how his late wife’s family would accept me. I didn’t need to worry. These people have acted as Christ to me for almost six years and made my life easy in a way that I never knew I would need. I love her mother as my mother, truly. People mistook her father for my father this weekend (of course.)

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And Michael? Since the day I met him, seeing a movie in May of 2011, Michael has been the nicest, sweetest, most supportive person in the world to me and Matt. He was the first to congratulate me on my engagement (because his mother can’t keep a secret.) He loved us enough that he stood up next to us at our wedding, which must have been an agonizing day for him, no matter how much he loved us. I got pregnant so fast that I was worried there would be an (understandable) difference between his blood niece Squeaks, and Buddy. There isn’t. From the moment they found out he was on his way, the entire family has loved him as their own. I honestly can’t imagine my life without them. I am so proud to call him a brother.

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And when he found his wife- oh man. She is amazing. She’s GORGEOUS. Which I always said I didn’t want in a sister in law. Turns out I don’t care when she’s also the NICEST person in the world. And she loves to read. And she loves Doctor Who. And the Gilmore Girls. And LITERALLY ALL THE THINGS I LOVE. She’s me. Except she’s the me that wants to have sex with Michael. (That’s a level of weird our family doesn’t need.) SHE’S PERFECT.

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I am so so blessed to have been able to get to know her these last few months. I am honored to get to be her sister now as she starts her life as a married woman with one of the best guys in the world.

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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!