A November to Remember

Apart from the political angst that dominated this month (all the angst!!), there were and are some things about this November 2016 that I want to remember.

First of all, the weather has been spectacular! I know that’s such a mundane thing to record, but the thing is, I can’t remember a nicer November.  It’s been sunny and mild, most days in the 50’s-60’s, so cold enough for a jacket and some layering, but not the puffy coats and all the wintery accoutrements.  And the foliage has been so beautiful and long lasting!  I wanted to record this fact especially, since there were dire predictions made in early September that the foliage would not be spectacular this year due to the drought.  I see it as a lesson to debbie-downer Ellen to not always take dire predictions seriously!

Usually after daylight savings ends, the kids and I are inside in the afternoons since naptime used to end around when it started getting dark. But this fall, since Sara doesn’t take naps any more and Gus needs his naps cut short so he sleeps better at night, we’ve been outside  in the afternoons for a good chunk of time, raking leaves and enjoying the beautiful pink sunsets and giant moon.img_6414

I don’t know what it is, (probably nesting?) but I have been loving raking the leaves this year.  It’s been quite therapeutic mentally, and the exercise feels so good!  Dave prefers to blow as many leaves as he can into the tree line and then mow/mulch the rest, but I’ve been making bags and bags and bags, just for the heck of it.  We finished off the last of it today, which has turned out to be our first borderline bitter day of the month.  But the kids still enjoy being outside despite the cold!

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I really want to remember what a sweet stage Gus is at now.  He’s talking so much more these days, and while he has his 2 year old moments, he’s much easier to deal with now than he was 6 or 8 months ago.  On Friday, Sara had lunch bunch at her preschool, which is when they can pack a lunch and stay for an extra hour to eat with their friends.  Lunch bunch days are hard for me and Gus because Gus usually needs and demands his nap right around noon.  So, in an effort to distract both of us, we went to Panera for a “special lunch.” It really wasn’t all that special; he spilled his go-gurt pouch all over the booth, gobbled down his mac and cheese in a flash, told me “all done” and tried to leave while I was still eating.  But! Later that evening when we were saying prayers and sharing what we were thankful for, Gus wanted to go first and he said he was thankful for “special wunch.”  How sweet is that?

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Sara is on an intense creative kick right now.  From the moment she wakes up in the morning to the last minutes before bed, she’s at her little ikea table, coloring, writing, cutting, glueing, basically making a huge mess! But she’s so determined and she’s so intent on her work.  We went to two kindergarten open houses this week, one option being more practical in every way considering (God willing) there will be a new baby in the family next year. But the other option is a really good classical Catholic school which I think would be the perfect fit for her academically next year.  But it’s not in town like the other school! Gus and his little brother and I would spend lots of time in the car to make that school happen.  Dave and I have some discerning to do. #firstworldproblems

Anyway, life is good.

 

 

End of October Daybook

Thinking: Of what to name our baby BOY!

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Sara came up with the name Norvis and is dead set on it. Luckily we have 20 more weeks to really figure it out. 😉

Reading: Just finished All the Light We Cannot See for my Well Read Mom’s book club.  It was as good as everyone says it is! And since I’m a Fountains of Carrots groupie, The Awakening of Miss Prim is waiting for me at the library.  I also picked up Four Seasons in Rome, Anthony Doerr’s memoir of the year he spent in Rome.  Christy said it’s really good and I always listen to her.  🙂

Watching: Dave and I are watching Veep and it’s really helping our election depression.  It’s an HBO show so the language is like, woah.  But! No scenes, if you know what I mean.  I’m also itching to watch the PBS Hamilton special, probably all on my own because Dave has exactly zero interest.  And! Less than a week till The Crown!

Praying: For the election. For my Grandma. For my oldest, bestest friend’s brother who is battling cancer for the second time in his young (15 years) life.  He’s undergoing surgery on Monday; will you please say a prayer for him too?

Eating: Making Alton Brown’s shepherd’s pie recipe tonight! Thanks for the recommendation, Bonnie!

Trying not to eat the mini Snickers on top of the fridge… and failing.

Wearing: My fall/winter maternity uniform: leggings, sweatshirt tunic, cozy socks and slippers.  I ordered these using some super cash earlier in the week and I’m DYING to get my hands on them and up my cozy leggings game!

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Action shot of my gestating perch and daily uniform.

Thankful: For the extremely kind and loving comments I received on my last post about my miscarriage.  As I mentioned in the comments, I’ve been feeling the hole in my family more, probably because it’s October and both of these littlest babies of mine’s stories are intertwined. As my pregnancy becomes more obvious (especially this week when we found out we are having a little boy) I feel the need to talk about the baby I lost because if I hadn’t lost that baby, I wouldn’t be pregnant with this little guy right now.  Anyway, thank you again, everyone.

Looking Forward To: Halloween! All Saint’s Day! Thanksgiving!  All the pounds gained!

A Tale of Two Octobers

I usually try to keep it light here because I think it takes a special talent to write about serious and deeply personal things in a respectful, eloquent and helpful way.  I know I don’t have that talent.  I’ve been avoiding writing on the blog for a very long time because I couldn’t not acknowledge that I had a miscarriage in March. It’s so personal and delicate a topic to me, but it is also such a sadly common thing for women to experience.  I don’t think it’s right to feel like you have to keep such a heartbreaking thing to yourself out of an old fashioned sense of propriety, but at the same time, I hardly know how to talk about it because it’s left me rather raw. I also have so many friends and relatives who have dealt with pregnancy and infant loss and who, quite frankly, had much more traumatic experiences than I had. So I’ve kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, it’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness day today, and that seemed as good a time as any to break my (blog) silence.  For three weeks in February and the beginning of March, I thought we’d be having another baby just about now.  I looked forward to October as new baby month, albeit briefly.  I’m also sad to say that I looked forward to October with apprehension. That baby was a surprise.  Not unwelcome, of course! But a surprise that I needed a bit of time to wrap my head around.  And then when I had finally wrapped my head around it and started to feel excited, I went in for the first ultrasound and found out that there was no baby, that our baby probably didn’t make it much past conception but my body just continued on thinking it was pregnant and not feeling too hot.  It felt like such a sick joke.

Now that it’s October, I still have complicated feelings about it all.  Part of what makes it complicated,though, is that this October has brought me reasons to be joyful. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt the first jabs and flutters of a new little one.  At the end of the month is my 20 week ultrasound, at which we will hopefully receive some tie-breaking news.  (Although, to be completely honest, I can never look forward to ultrasounds in a 100% positive way anymore.)

I do think about the what-ifs, but I can’t think about them too much because then it erases the reality of right now.  But at the same time, the reality of right now feels very fragile.  I’m having a hard time being joyful and hopeful about this baby.  I struggle with not letting the negativity overtake me. Ultimately, I know that I have so much to be grateful for. There’s no neat, positive way to wrap this up.  I’m still in the middle of it a bit, as you can see.  I guess, despite my questions, sadness and anxiety, there are a few things I know for sure.  My baby(ies) came from Love and they are loved and that makes this all worth it.

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Not coincidentally, we found out about our baby on Valentine’s Day. I’m so glad I thought to take a (upside-down) picture of the test.

 

 

 

First Baby’s 4th Birthday

I once knew someone who, when talking about her daughter’s birthdays and birthday parties, would proudly say it was “my day too.”  That always irritated me at the time, and I still think it’s a ridiculous thing to say, but now I understand why she would say such a thing.

The days that my children were born were monumental days in my life.  I understand why a mother would feel ownership over her children’s birthdays, especially their first child’s birthdays.  My own firstborn gave me such a hard time coming out that I’ll never forget the pain and the fear and the blessed relief when it was all over.  But even so, I can’t claim that it’s my day.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate lessons of parenthood? This is not about me.

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How embarrassing is this picture??? That was one of the most difficult days of my life and now, each year, it is the most joyful day of my life.

Today is Sara Kate’s 4th birthday.  It seems like such a big number, but I know I’ll blink and she’ll be 10.  I feel so grateful and humbled that she’s our little girl.  April 6th (and 5th) 4 years ago was one of the most difficult days of my life, but I’d do it again gladly.  She is so worth it.  IMG_5531

7 (or 9) QT: Spring & Summer Bucket List

Dave and I are extremely boring people.  This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows us.  We are not the adventurous, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants types.  I guess we used to be more spontaneous before we had kids, but when SK joined our crew almost 4 years ago we very willingly hunkered down and embraced our true identities: homebodies with iron-clad naptimes and bedtimes.

Don’t feel sorry for us, people.  We are very happy being this way! But there’s something about the arrival of spring that makes me feel the itch to explore and do all the things.  And we live in a pretty awesome corner of the country with lots of things to see and do.  So we decided to compile a bucket list of things to do and see this around Boston in the spring and summer.  We committed it to paper and put it on the fridge which doesn’t make it official of course, but it does mean that it will taunt us as the sunny days full of promise roll in.  And since there are around 7 items on the list (okay, 9), I’m making it a Quick Takes and linking with Kelly. 🙂

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  1. Roger William’s Zoo.  We’ve already been there, but it was when Gus was an infant.  Now he’s an almost 2 year old who becomes absolutely giddy when he encounters any animal, so another zoo visit is in store.  There is a zoo that is closer but we’ve never been there because everyone tells us its not that great.  So we’ll stick with what we know.  Do-ability level: medium-high.
  2. Castle Island.  Our neighbor is always telling us to go here because it’s a great place to watch the airplanes take off and land.  Apparently, there’s more to it than that.  Personally, I’m always romantically drawn to islands, so I’m game no matter what.  🙂 Do-ability level: medium
  3. Wellesley Park & Houghton Pond.  Okay, these are two things but the same idea.  A friend of ours works for Wellesley parks and rec and is always telling us to come to Morses Pond so we’re going to check it out.  Houghton Pond is really close by to us and part of the Blue Hills Reservation and it’s free, so we always love going there to swim and picnic in the summer. Do-ability level: high
  4. Crane Beach on a weekday.  Dave and I went to Crane Beach way back before we had kids, and while it’s a really nice beach for  New England, it was crazy packed.  He doesn’t remember it fondly.  I think we need to give it another shot though on a weekday.  To be completely honest, there are tons of beaches within an hour and a half of us, and we just need to explore a little more.  Hence, the bucket list.  Do-ability level: medium
  5. Esplanade Concert.  Egads! This one intimidates me.  Which is ridiculous because it’s one of the classic Boston things to do in the summer.  I think Dave and I might try this for a date night, because I’m still (forever?) a big bedtime stickler.  Do-ability level: low/intimidating.
  6. Storyland.  This is a little kids’ amusement park in New Hampshire.  I’ve been holding out on a trip there because the kids are so young, but I think with Sara turning 4 she’s the perfect age.  Except, she and Gus are prone to motion sickness so between the car ride and the ride-rides, this might be a fail.  Do-ability level: low-medium.
  7. Strawberry and/or blueberry picking.  I have no place in mind, I just think this would be fun. 🙂 Do-ability level: medium (should probably research farms).
  8. Stony Brook & Blue Hills Hikes.  There are tons of places around us to hike.  Stony Brook Reservation is literally less than 5 minutes from our house and we’ve never checked it out and I want that to change, dang it! Do-ability level: high-very high.
  9. Arnold Arboretum picnics: We don’t live very far from the Arboretum and we usually end up there sometime in May for a Mother’s Day picnic because it’s gorgeous.  I’d like to go to the Arboretum more often though, maybe on a weekday with friends.  Again, it’s not far away at all so it’s ridiculous that we don’t get there more often.  Do-ability level: high.

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    At the Arboretum last year. Look at that baby! Sob!

So there’s what we have so far.  Any other suggestions for us from my fellow New Englanders?  I mean, we need help, we’re super lame.

And make sure you check out the other quick takes!  

Obligatory Update

Well, it’s been a few weeks since the last post so you know what that means: some sort of vague update is in store!  This time it’s a daybook of sorts.

Reading: Too many things, I’m a little over my head in the book department to be honest!  I’m working on The Importance of Being Little which I am enjoying, but it’s also rather damning in regards to some of my beloved preschool routines and activities.  I’m attempting to keep an open mind.  I also have Acedia and Me, which I am a little scared of starting because I know that acedia is my number one vice.  Hence, why I ordered the book!  I also have The Nesting Place waiting for me at the library, so yeah, lots of things to read!  I’m also dying to reread an old favorite, Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher. Does anyone else experience this, like a craving for a favorite food, but it’s a book?

Watching:  Downton.  Duh!  (Spoilers ahead) So, I’ve been very “meh” about Downton for the past few years because it was just getting so ridiculous, but this last season has been ah-maz-ing!  But!  Why oh why did Lady Mary get her happy ending before Edith?  I mean, Edith called it like it is.  Mary is a B.

Thinking: Stewing is more like it.  Has anyone else read this article?  I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to nurse my two, but I also know so many women who greatly struggle for various reasons and eventually need to switch to formula.  I hate these types of articles that impose moral guilt on mothers! [Update: Simcha Fisher responds! Thank goodness!  “Women are more than the milk they can make.” Love her.]

Praying:  For sick relatives, for one pregnant sister and her upcoming move and the other formerly pregnant sister and her new baby girl!  Maura Rose was born on February 8th! I can’t wait to hold her little self!

Eating:  (I feel like the following is a bit misleading because I’m not really a crunchy health nut, but it is Lent and I’m trying to stay away from sweets, so I’ve been focusing more on eating healthfully… believe me, I’d rather be baking chocolate chip cookies…and eating the dough…)  I made these homemade apple pie lara bars to snack on and today I made a big batch of quinoa and roasted veggies so I could have veggie bowls for lunch this week.  Oh!  And I made this spinach bacon chicken risotto for dinner last week like a boss! It was so good and so easy, you have to try it!

Playing: Outside!  This weekend was very mild, which was nuts because last weekend it was in the subzero temps!  It’s such a blessing to have these mild days in the middle of winter.  We also went to the indoor trampoline park this morning.  The kids didn’t like it at all.  😉IMG_5534IMG_5541

Wearing:  Too many stripes, probably.  I’m afraid we’re all going to look back on ourselves 10 years from now and shake our heads at all the horizontal stripes.  But I can’t help myself!  And I feel like it must be classy, right?

I mean.      Image

Thankful: As always, for my Dave.  I was able to get away for most of the day Saturday to view several of the Catholic Conference 4 Moms videos with some fellow Catholic moms at a nearby parish.  I came back so refreshed with my extrovert cup filled, and the kids had a great time with Dad of course.  Whenever Gus has too much alone time with Dave, he starts calling me Daddy.  Funny, he doesn’t call Dave Mommy despite me being home with him all the time.  Dad’s just a special guy. 🙂

Looking Forward:  Spring!  I can’t wait to see if the bulbs come up that I frantically planted in November. We also have a lot of house projects on the horizon.  A new roof, new paint job, maybe new paving, and hopefully a nice facelift to our living room too.  We bit the bullet and ordered a new slip cover for our couch because it’s really been looking shabby lately.  We ordered it in a dusky shade of blue instead of the parchment shade of off-white we have already and I’m so excited!  With a new couch (color) and fresh paint on the walls, it will be like a whole new room!

What’s Saving My Life This Winter

I love the discussion going on at Modern Mrs. Darcy about what’s saving us this winter.  It’s so true that it’s easy to be glum and to complain to each other about the drudgeries of winter, but isn’t it nice to think about the things that are helping us survive and even enjoy this season? I think so! I really wanted to link up with her last winter, but I chickened out because it seemed like all of my things were vapid little vanities.  But you know what? Pretty little things make me happy.  So! Here are my silly and more serious things that are saving me this winter.

  1.  Pretty nails:  I have a deep weakness for the Essie display at CVS.  I picked up their color  Stones n’ Roses yesterday and it’s just perfect.  It’s a soft peachy-pink that is just a whisper of spring.  Sara and I are both wearing it!IMG_5454
  2. Clinique Naturally Glossy Mascara This was the one and only mascara I would buy back when I first started wearing mascara, because it never clumps and never gave me spider eyes.  But somewhere along the line, I fell into that line of thinking that my eyelashes needed to be full! plump! look fake! and I bought all the trendy mascaras that we supposed to achieve those looks.  So, last month after I got pink eye, I needed to buy new mascara and I thought, “hmm, maybe I’ll go back to my old Clinique Naturally Glossy.” Best decision ever!  It’s just as good as I remember it, and it was a reminder to me that I don’t like clumpy, volumizing mascara, I just want something to emphasize my natural lashes.  
  3. Burts Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Sweet Violet Speaking of emphasizing my natural features, I finally found a lip gloss that does that!  I think there was a Small Things Blog post a long time ago that talked about finding a lip color that’s like your lips but better, and I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since then.  I’m not a lip stick gal, at least not yet, so I was thrilled to stumble upon Burts Bees Tinted lip balm a little while ago.  Sweet Violet is that perfect purply-pink that plays up my lips’ natural color.
  4.  My birthday! Every year just when I think January is going to get the best of me, my birthday rolls around at the tail end.  It saves the month every time.  I feel bad for all of you who don’t have a winter birthday to break up the drudgery, I really do!
  5. Books: I’ve been eating up the non-fiction like whoa lately.  Earlier in January, I read the Rule of St. Benedict for my book club, which was a nice reminder for me of the need for structure, order and self-discipline in the home.  Then there was Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, which I took some lessons from (more on that later) and now I’m finishing up These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson of the awesome blog The Catholic Table.  I’m really loving this book.  I love her take on the broader lessons of Theology of the Body, and how it branches into hospitality, manners, how to dress and take care of one’s home and the sacredness of food.  I can’t recommend it enough!
  6. Lent is coming soon:  I know this sounds odd and maybe seems a little  masochistic, not to mention probably my most famous of last words, but I’m really pumped for Lent this year.  This is my first Lent in 5 years that I haven’t been pregnant or nursing, so I feel like I have no excuse not to really work on self-denial.  Plus, knowing that Lent is coming so soon means I’m relishing my birthday cheesecake and evening wine while I can! I still haven’t completely decided whether I’m going to do a Whole 30, but for sure, I’m going to give up sweets and alcohol and attempt a 40 Bags in 40 Days.  But, (reeling myself in) in this last week before Lent, I’m going to really be praying for Him to tell me what I need to work on this Lent. 

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    I also relished these bacon wrapped, goat cheese filled dates on my birthday. All of them. By myself.

  7. Exercise: The beginning of January really stunk, (and then I got pink eye) but then when I was reading  Secrets from the Eating Lab, the chapter about the necessity of being physically active really jumped out at me.  I’d fallen off the bandwagon with exercise.  I was still getting a run or a DVD in once or twice a week, but not most days like I had been last summer.  No wonder I felt so blah!  Traci Mann writes in her book, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, which boils down to about 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.  Ugh, I make so many excuses! Sometimes I’ll have a good run on Saturday or Sunday and then do nothing the rest of the week.  That once a week run isn’t really doing anything for me the rest of the week, mood wise or health wise! No more excuses, I’m aiming on getting my 150 minutes in because it’s the bare minimum of what I should be doing to be healthy, and I know I’m much less grumpy and anxious when I’m exercising regularly.
  8. Dave:  Gosh.  I married up.  He’s just such a good, patient and fun Dad and such a self-sacrificing spouse.  I don’t know what I would do without him, no matter what time of year it is!

Tenacious Pink Eye & Other Happenings

Don’t worry, you can’t catch pink eye from reading a blog post…

or can you???

As the title suggests, we have a particularly stubborn case of pink eye going through our family at the moment.  It all started last month when we stayed at Claire’s house over Christmas and Jackie came down with pink eye. Well, Gus brought it home and it’s been through almost every member of both of our families since then.  Claire texted me a goopy-eyed selfie this morning to alert me of it’s new victim, but I’m a nice sister so I won’t share that with you.  Dave is the last man standing in our house, and he is literally quaking in his boots with apprehension.

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How to pink eye like a boss: wear shades everywhere. No, actually, just stay home.

But on a happier note, today is Rose’s birthday!  Happy birthday to our high-achiever of a sister who is an artist, dance master, wife and mother extraordinaire.  She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her fourth grand masterpiece, so please keep her in your prayers as she approaches her due date on Valentine’s Day!

And in related news, our oldest sister Jane is expecting her 5th this June, and we just found out she’s having a boy! Rose doesn’t know the gender of her little one yet, but if she has a boy the grandkid gender scale will be even at 7 boys and 7 girls!

This is from the last time Jane and Rose were pregnant at the same time, in 2009!

This is from the last time Jane and Rose were pregnant at the same time, in 2009! 

Last and least, I’m just finishing up Secrets From The Eating Lab by Traci Mann.  I ordered it from the library after reading Modern Mrs. Darcy’s take, and I breezed through it this weekend.  It’s very interesting! Before reading, I was gearing up to do a Whole 30 during Lent this year but now I’m on the fence.  I know I’m the last person in the world to try a Whole 30, so those of you who have done it, what are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear!

Gotta go while it’s still naptime!

 

7QT: Library Finds and Thanksgiving Pics

Linking up with Kelly today to share some randoms, like I do.  🙂

  1. This really needs to be quick because I should be working on Gus’ stocking.  I wish I could say it’s a labor of love…  It’s a doozy!
  2. It’s been really mild here, considering it’s the first week of December!  Ordinarily I would be a little sad about this, wishing for a white Christmas and all.  But no, this year I’m dreaming of a balmy Christmas and a mild winter, just like the one before Sara was born.  I’m totally suffering from ptsd after last winter!
  3. Apart from worries about our roof and gutters surviving another winter like last year’s, I’m worried about the winter because we’ve discovered that outside time is vital for Gus’ happiness. Gus is like a little puppy; his daily needs are cuddles and attention, chow time, and outside time.  He is the best version of himself when he’s outside throwing and kicking and hitting things with sticks.  But when he’s been stuck inside too much, watch out!

    Just going a liiiiitle crazy.

    Just going a liiiiitle crazy.

  4. Does anyone else find Trader Joe’s Holiday Fearless Flyer to be a near occasion of gluttony?  Just me?  I just need to give TJ’s all my money, that’s what this is coming to. My recent favorite purchases have been gingerbread coffee and their sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds.

    Yes, that is me holding the flyer over my garbage can.  It eventually went in after some drool inducing reading.

    Yes, that is me holding the flyer over my garbage can. It eventually went in after some drool inducing reading.

  5. I picked up some great Christmas books at the library yesterday!  One I ordered specially, Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Barbara Cooney.  I LOVE Barbara Cooney’s illustrations, and sadly this version of the book with Cooney illustrations is out of print, so I was happy to find it in the library system!  I also picked up a sweet book about St. Nicholas, since St. Nicholas day is coming up.  It’s called The Gift of St. Nicholas by Dorothea Lachner.
  6. I’m planning on doing a little purging this weekend to make room for presents and such. (When am I not planning on purging? Sigh…)  Still, this Verily article hit a nerve.  I always feel a little guilty when I purge, especially my wardrobe.  I know it’s a luxury to be able to part with excess and/or replace something I don’t really like.  I need to be a better steward of the things I already have and think twice before buying frivolously.
  7. Oh! And Thanksgiving! It happened, and it was lovely! We went to my mom’s house as usual and it was lovely as usual.  She’s been hosting Thanksgiving for the extended family every year (with a break for the year Jim was born) since 1987? 88? One of those late 80s.  That’s a long time! She’s a pro! Of course I took almost no pictures, but here are some random pictures that kind of give you a taste of McFamily-ness.
    Carmela and Sara prancing down the road to Gigi's house.

    Carmela and Sara prancing down the road to Gigi’s house.

    Sara convinced a reluctant "Uncle Chim" to dance with her.

    Sara convinced a reluctant “Uncle Chim” to dance with her.

    Baba on tv telling us all why the $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea.

    Baba on tv telling us all why the $15 minimum wage is a terrible idea.

    Happy weekend, everyone!

Fighting off Advent Apprehension

Can I tell you something? This used to be my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, I looked forward to this time of year all year long. But now I kind of dread it.  And not because I’m a mom and I have more to do this time of year.  It’s because there seems to be so much pressure these days, especially on Catholic moms, to “get it right.”  To do Advent right and Christmas right.  The questions and blog posts have already started.

Do you do Santa?

When do you set up the tree?

Are you successful at keeping Advent sacred and unsullied by Christmas revelry until midnight of Christmas Eve?

Maybe it’s just my easy-going personality, but I think my McFamily did things pretty well.  We were always very aware of and into the Advent season. We had our Advent wreath and usually a paper Advent calendar and we could take turns opening the door for the day. Later in my childhood my mom found this Advent read-aloud called Jotham’s Journey that we all really enjoyed.  But, we also got our Christmas tree usually half way through the month and we decorated it right away, while listening to Christmas music. We believed in Santa Clause, but we would also get a present from Baby Jesus on Christmas morning. Some years we went to the Christmas Eve Mass and but later on we mostly went to Mass on Christmas morning, some years before opening presents if I remember correctly! My point is, I think my parents did a good job of teaching us about the true meaning of Christmas.  We knew Advent was a season of preparation, but we also were excited about Christmas coming and enjoyed the magic of the decorations, the music, the special movies and treats.

I understand the intent behind this “keep Advent sacred” movement.  We live in a world where the Halloween candy appears at stores in July and Santa shows up in September.  I get it, we all need to reel it in and recognize that Christmas is on December 25th and the season of Advent comes before so that we can prayerfully prepare our hearts and our homes.  But, maybe it’s because I’m not much a disciplined, austere person myself that I don’t see the harm in a decorated tree on December 12th and Christmas songs playing while making dinner in December.  As an adult, and especially since becoming a Mom, the darkness descending outside at 4:30pm makes the rest of life feel dark, but that month-6 weeks that we have the tree up and the other seasonal comforts really helps everyone’s moods.  Furthermore, it helps me keep my focus on Christ and embrace and share the joy of the season.

I’m not trying to poo-poo anyone who works really hard at not mixing Advent and Christmas, I’m just saying I don’t think it ruins Advent when we slowly add in merriment as we build towards the Christmas feast.

We’re all journeying to the same place, but we all have different paths.  I might change my mind, or gradually become more strict about Advent and Christmas.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit will move my husband and me to try new things as we build our family traditions and strive to grow in holiness.  It’s happened before! I just don’t like this idea that if you do certain things at Christmastime, participate in certain more secular activities and traditions, that you are doing it wrong, and you’re damaging your kids.  There’s so much real darkness and evil in the world, why are we giving our neighbors a hard time about how they celebrate Christmas and the holidays?  We are each responsible for our own families, for our children and their moral growth, and nobody else’s and we should have faith that the Lord is working in other people’s hearts and families, just like ours.

Anyway, I’m going to try not to let this apprehension about Advent take me over.  Sometime in the next few days, I need to make sure I pick up new Advent candles.  I’m going to try to finish up Christmas shopping so I have time to do Christmas cards and Gus’ stocking in December. I’m going to pull out our Christmas books and make sure we start reading about the Nativity so it’s all fresh in Sara’s mind.  I have it on good authority that St. Nicholas is bringing Sara and Gus their own Nativity scene on December 6th.  [Although, as an aside, I’m getting the feeling that some people think that the Fisher Price Little-People Nativity is not authentic or beautiful enough? No, it’s not Fontanini, but it is toddler proof. I love Melissa and Doug and all things classy and wood like any other middle class American mom, but I do get so weary of the war against plastic toys.]

I think our world is desperate for the peace and joy of Christ, don’t you? That’s what I’m going to try to focus on this Advent and Christmas.

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