Sunday, December 31, 2006
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Where those detergents fail, Permatex hand soap for mechanics delivers. Your hair will be lighter, shinier, and fuller than ever. Attractive strangers will turn their heads as you pass. "Who was that handsome toddler with downy soft hair?" they will ask one another, "Have you ever seen such bounce? Such shine?" Available at most auto parts stores.
WARNING: Do not get into a jar of Permatex without parental supervision--preferably two parents. One to wrap you in a towel and the other to get the job done as quickly and cleanly as possible.
Friday, December 29, 2006
We had a lovely evening out, laughed about Nicholas' antics with lotion, and talked about how blessed we have been with an abundance of good family and an abundance of good friends. Thank you!
Thursday, December 28, 2006
And certainly I was naive. My whole married life was ahead of me. Hearth, home, children--it was all to come. My hopes and dreams were as vibrant as my youthful imagination and stood, as yet, unchecked by any reality. There were no hardships, no disappointments, no sacrifices on that day when I made those vows to love for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad.
It was later that the hardships came and they were certainly not of the worst variety-- just the usual struggles of a young couple trying to live a life of faith...trying to live in the world but not be of it... and perhaps a few additional hardships peculiar to us that God has asked us to endure.
If this is the worst of it, if this is my path to heaven--suffering with those I love, surrounded by them, and most often for the sake of them-- then I'll be the first to say that His yoke is easy and His burden, light.
Still, there have been times when I have envied the young woman in this photograph. As life has chipped away at my plans here, there at my hopes, and again at my self-vision...I have found it hard to let go of my ideals. There have been many times when I have wished I could stand as radiant and as hopeful as the young woman in this photograph stands.
But I have also learned that, for all her radiance, she is naive in more ways than one. There are indeed many things that she does not know...
She does not know the humiliations of gestating, the pains of labor, or the constraints of nursing, it is true...
...but nor does she know the joy of carrying a secret life inside her, the triumph of childbirth, or the pride of providing sole nourishment for another human person.
She does not know how much one can die to self without actually dying, I know...
...but nor does she know the life of love that is born of that sacrifice.
She does not know that humility is draining and bottomless...
...but nor does she know the peace of letting go and the dignity of being filled up by God.
She does not know how overwhelmed she will be or how inadequate she will feel...
...but nor does she know the courage she will have or the occasions to which she will rise.
She does not know that she probably won't accomplish everything she hopes to...
...but nor does she know the value of what she will accomplish.
She does not know how much the man beside her will change...
..She has no idea what a loving, kind, and appreciative husband he will prove to be. She does not know that she could not have chosen a more devoted father for her children or more perfect partner for life. Though she loves him with all the depths of her heart, she does not know that the trials of life will make her heart grow deeper and thus, ten years later, she will love him even more profoundly.
So it is that the older I get, the less envious I am of the young woman in this photograph and the more she becomes a sweet symbol of youthful idealism and unblemished hope. God bless her, dear thing. For her, I wish a life as rich as mine.
(Photograph: taken by my sister, Helene.)
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Alex (belting out): On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, some garbage in a pear tree.
On Christmas morning, Zachary waking up in our bed...
Me: Good morning Zachary, do you know what day this is?
Me: That's right Zachary, and do you know what that means there will be downstairs?
Zachary: Yes. A big mess.
(He turned out to be right about that one.)
When we met the other boys downstairs...
Simeon (referring to the tune "I Saw Three Ships"): Mama, it's Christmas day in the mooooorn-ning.
After every single gift he opened...
Jacob (very sincerely): Oh, wow, just what I have always wanted.
Opening a beautiful statue of St. Michael from his godparents...
Simeon: Oh look, it's a devil squisher.
(Handy things, those.)
Throughout the day whenever we would ask Nicholas "Where's your baby?" he would drop whatever he was doing in a panic and run about the house calling out, "baby...baby." When he'd find his baby, he'd give him a few hugs and then leave him lying about somewhere else.
At the end of a full day and just before we fell asleep we agreed that the children had been especially adorable all day. We also agreed that they are still all so easy to please, that it won't always be this way, and that we will appreciate it so long as it lasts.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
(I said he wasn't getting into trouble, but now that I'm looking at this picture I'm wondering what that wetness is on his sweatshirt....hmmm.)
Nicholas loves babies so much that after some consideration as to the appropriateness, I decided to give him a boy doll for Christmas. After all, encouraging our little ones to love babies teaches them gentleness and compassion and lays the foundation for a full appreciation of chastity later in life. Little boys need this at least as much as little girls do. I won't be buying his doll multiple outfits and this doll has no hair to comb or style. It's just a baby to love. Besides, scenes like this one are just too adorable to resist.
Nicholas is a very good father, but he wants you to know, too... in case you are questioning his boyishness... that he loves his new mud-bespattered ATV just as much.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
He pushes chairs to counter tops so he can climb up into the kitchen sink or rummage foods stored out of reach. He powders himself with pancake mix, candies himself in sugar, and... dumps... dumps... dumps... whatever he can open. I have found myself on the floor far too often this week picking up infinite numbers of discrete food items... pasta pieces, pistachios, cheerios, one-by-one-by maddening one...When I'm on that floor picking up those tiny pieces of food, I sometimes imagine that I can feel my vocabulary diminishing on account of the mind-numbing futility of my labor.
His adventures aren't limited to the kitchen, either, he disorganizes everything from bedroom to bathroom. The phrase "out of reach" doesn't have much meaning around here anymore. He doused himself with half a bottle of hand soap on Monday and Wednesday he came to me in the kitchen looking as though he had soaped himself again. A little sleuthing, and I learned that sticky glop in his hair was not soap but hair gel. He had schlicked the upstairs bathroom with it as well. Yes, the whole bathroom.
When I try to prevent him from getting into trouble, or try to take him out of trouble, or clean him up from having been in trouble, he acts as though I am the offending party. He fights me with all his strength and becomes incensed. If he is awake and not cuddling with me in my arms, we are at war. That is, until I declared amnesty...
Regular readers will remember that someone in this house had accidentally packed some overdue library books a few weeks back. They were considerably overdue to start with, so by the time I unpacked them I had received a fair number of notices from the fine public facility we had borrowed them from. In my shame and unwillingness to face the music, I had simply been collecting these notices--unopened--on my desk. I told myself I would call the library and explain my situation, maybe bargain to have my fines cut in half, but I never called. So the fines and the stack of notices grew with each passing day.
Yesterday, Nicholas discovered these notices. I suppose he thought someone needed to open them and he was the man for the job. He opened every one and spread the papers and envelopes all over the floor. Of all the things!
As I was picking up the mess, I tried not to look at the notices. I didn't want to see the return address and the name of that fine library that had been so good to us, but where we had lost favor. I didn't want to see the fines...(Ooup, there they are...wow.) I did not want to look at what I had been avoiding, thank you, Nicholas.
I couldn't help but see, though, that there was a highlighted sentence on each notice. Was it a threat of some sort? I couldn't help but read...what's this?
DECEMBER IS FINE FREE MONTH FOR ALL ITEMS RETURNED BETWEEN DEC 1, AND DEC 31.Rejoice! I never would have read that if it weren't for Nicholas. I would have persisted in my state of denial well into the new year! And so I've decided to forgive Nicholas, as I will be forgiven, for repeated acts of irresponsible and unreasonable behavior.
When I told my dear husband about what had happened he asked, "So, are you going to return those books today?"
"What?" I replied, "Why? I have until the 31st."
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I put the baby for a nap, set the older boys up for some computer time and brewed this amazing blend of tea. I grabbed my copy of Divine Intimacy, and since I'm a little behind, I read the meditation for Gaudete Sunday. I drank in St Paul's words about "The peace of God which surpasseth all understanding..." as I drank this delicious tea in my newly unpacked living room.
This was, by far, the most delicious cup of tea I have ever had. Was it because this was my first experience with this kind of gourmet tea? (I think I'm hooked--Goodbye Gevalia, Hello Adagio) Was it because this was the first moment of real peace I have enjoyed in a very long time? Or was it because this was an unexpected gift from someone I admire? I think the answer is yes to all of the above. The only thing that could have made this experience better, would have been if, somehow, Elizabeth could have been in that seat beside me and the rest of you all around.
(Photograph: Courtesy of our resident eight-year-old photographer)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Oh, the Holly she bears a berry
as blood it is red
and Mary she bore Jesus
to die in our stead.
Now, the Holly she bears a prickle
as sharp as any thorn
and Mary she bore Jesus
on Chistmas in the morn.
Now, the Holly she bears a bark
as bitter as any gall
and Mary she bore Jesus
For to redeem sinners all.
Oh, the Holly she bears a blossom
as white as can be
and Mary she bore Jesus
Our savior for to be.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
In a way, she was right. The boys are all very similar. They all have the same square-shaped feet and the same solid build, the same laugh, and the same good natured disposition. Many people that know us can't tell the middle ones apart and even I confuse them when I see them from a distance, or from a new angle, or in new clothes. As they grow and change this one looks just like that one and then, just like another. In a strange sort of way, it is almost as though I've had the same child five times.
Yet, in another sense, the boys are all very different. Each one has his own learning style, his own unique talents, his own challenges. What motivates one to behave well doesn't work on the next, and the things that anger one... roll off the back of another. However much they all look alike or how similar they are in other ways, they are still very unique individuals.
Discovering their different personalities and watching them develop and interact with one another has been one the most joyful parts of parenting. I love to see the expressions of their little selves. The things they do and say that I know they did not learn from anyone else. Those things that come from deep within themselves, from their very souls, from who they are and who they were created to be.
Even the little gestures and motions they make from early on indicate their individuality. I captured a few of these classic gestures in the Christmas photo session this year and while none of these will appear in our Christmas card, these are some of my favorite shots...
Monday, December 18, 2006
As of this very moment, we are officially, completely, and totally unpacked. This was my mission for the day and I accomplished it. I'm not going to talk about how the house needs serious cleaning or about the fact that I am WAY behind on laundry...because right now I'm just going to pat myself on the back.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Just eight days ago I posted a picture of Zachary after a haircut. I titled this post, "Christmas Cut and a Lollipop Treat." Of course I meant haircut, but many commenters remarked that they thought Zachary had cut himself, some even imagined a trip to the emergency room, and many thought the lollipop was to comfort him after his injury. Well...
Begin creepy music
Poor little Zachary had a trip to the emergency room tonight after he fell in the breezeway and hit his head on concrete. He split his forehead open and it was clear, right away, that he would need stitches. He received three stitches and--please note-- a lollipop treat to comfort him afterward.
"You were very brave." I told him later.
"Thank you Mama," he replied, "You were very brave, too."
Well, I tried to be.
Friday, December 15, 2006
A few years ago, my father made this stable for our nativity set. He modeled it after the one that was in our home when I was a child (and I think it is still the one my parents use today).
He captured all the important details-- the slanted cross bar of the horse stall, the waved front of the platform, and the light that shines softly on the silent figures below.
Adding even more to the sentiment, he made the roof of this stable from the bark of trees that grow in the woods behind my parents' house where I used to play.
The animals: a donkey, a cow, a chicken, a horse, and a few sheep, are manufactured by Schleich. They are the perfect size for our set as are the Fontanini figures: Mary, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd, a manger and, of course, the Christ child.
This simple stable, so lovingly crafted by my father, captures all the magic of Christmas for me. When I look at it, I remember so well the days of Advent I spent as a child staring with wonder through this little window into the mystery of the incarnation. Now my children can do the same and I will stare right beside them. Thank you, Dad!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Gingerbread Cake with Egg Nog Icing
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a nine inch cake pan. In a large bowl, mix cooled butter, sugar and egg and set aside. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine light or dark molasses with the hot water. Alternating, add dry ingredients and the molasses-water to the butter, sugar and egg. Blend just to combine. Pour batter into pan and bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool for ten minutes and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
approx. 1/2 lb. confectioners sugar
1/2 a stick of butter at room temperature
egg nog to taste
Optional: Top cake with a dollar store pick-up. What is it about nutcrackers that my children love so much??
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
When you turn six
When your older brother is your best friend in all the world
When you've learned to ride a bike
and to read
and to write cursive letters
When your teeth are falling out
naturally and otherwise
(no more running with rope in your teeth-I don't care if you're pretending to be a reindeer)
When you have gingerbread cake with egg nog icing
and decorate a Christmas tree till very late at night
When your brothers sing happy birthday among the carols and give you hugs
When you have a very special place in your mother's heart and in your father's heart
and they tell you so
When you are handsome and kind
When you're good at puzzles
and games of all sorts
When you are looked out for by an older brother
and looked up to by three younger ones
there is reason to smile
that ear to ear smile that we all so love to see.
We love you, Alexander, happy birthday!
Jeremy: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Three boys: Pray for us
Zachary: Play with us
He continued to repeat this response after every saint named.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
You know that sinking feeling that comes when you are expecting things to go one way and then they go another? I'm living with that feeling now that the buyer of our house has backed out of the contract. In one way, I am really at peace with this; maybe even relieved. I am happy to stay some time longer in this house that I love with the neighbors we know.
We will have to do this again eventually, but for now we've had enough. We will take the house off the market and give my nervous system a rest. While I slowly unpack I am readjusting all my thoughts and plans. What we considered the benefits to our moving are now losses and the things we thought we were losing --we have regained. We will have to contend with the dead tree in our neighbor's yard again, but we will have a great new bathroom. We will have to live without a spacious floor plan for now, but we will most likely see Joseph coming around to offer us his assistance in any way he can.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
My husband was kind. He held me in his arms and told me he understood. He agreed that we've had it rough at times, but that I have always done well. He assured me that I would again, told me he wanted to help in any way he could, and encouraged me to ask for help from others. I saw my pity party for what it was. I knew I had to let go of my bitter and fruitless feelings. I needed to stop trying to control everything and just accept things as they were: difficult, but manageable. I prayed for the grace to accept my circumstances.
It was a good thing, too, that that grace came through because that evening--after a difficult day of packing-- our tile man showed up. This man was hired by our realtor to finish the half begun half bath project I had started some time ago. It is wonderful to have someone to do this for us, but he didn't come alone. He brought with him his seven year old son, Johnny (not his real name). Now Johnny's dad is a single parent and had no other place for Johnny to go when he came for this job. I understood, but I had not expected this.
While Johnny was sweet-- he showed concern for my smaller children while he played and even hugged me at one point when I tied his shoe--Johnny also caused some trouble. He was hyper active and got my own boys going. He was prone to jump on furniture, dig out toys that had already been packed and repetitively ask permission for things I didn't want any of the children to do. So, when he added speaking disrespectfully to me to this list, I drew the line. I spoke with authority and asked him to sit on the step and remain there until he could be more respectful. Thankfully, he obeyed. When I let him off the step later he looked up at me with sheepish eyes, apologized, and asked, "Are you a teacher?" I told him I was... in a manner of speaking. He ran off to play and continued to switch back and forth from very sweet to very trying.
Two and a half hours later, I realized that I had not gotten the packing done I needed to and the house was a mess. I had planned to go out and finish my Christmas shopping that evening, but didn't feel I could leave all the children plus Johnny with my husband. Graciously, he rose to the task. "Why don't you go, " he told me, "I can handle it." I snuck out of the house and saw that my van was blocked in and so I needed to take Jeremy's car. As I drove away, the last thing I saw through the window was my husband sitting on the couch with an open book and six boys on his lap!
I shopped until late, getting some great bargains and terrific finds, but when I returned to the car... I saw that I had left the lights on. It was Jeremy's car and the lights don't work the same way as my van. AUUgghh... I called road side service to assist me and didn't return home until after midnight. Jeremy and I spoke briefly before I fell asleep. He said Johnny didn't want to leave when it was time to go and that he had been very affectionate. We both agreed that Johnny was a sweet boy in a difficult position. It has to be hard on him living without a mother and following his father around on these jobs at night. I went to sleep feeling grateful that my children have a mother and a father who love one another and a stable home... if not a stable house. I saw clearly that, more than all the great finds I had just brought home, this was the greatest gift we could give them this Christmas and always.
...I awoke this morning with a twinge of a headache and Zachary standing by my bed, "Mama...Mama.." he was saying, "I made a mess with the Raisin Bran." Hu? Who? What year is this? ......Where are we?
I crawled downstairs and found that yes, indeed, he had made a mess with the Raisin Bran. As I swept the kitchen... the dining room...oh, and the living room, in and around the boxes, that headache went from twinge to throb. I went to get the aspirin and realized that it was in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom where the tile had been laid the night before. I couldn't reach it. I tried coffee instead. As I sipped my coffee and held my head, Zachary brought me more tidings of great joy, "Mama," he said, "There are trucks here and men coming to our house. The workers are here again Mama!" He was right. But this time they were alone. Johnny was in school this morning.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Foam gingerbread men may not taste as good as the real ones, but they are just as cute.
This project was so simple, we let Nicholas in on the fun. Happy Feast Day, little Nicholas, and to all Nicholases everywhere!!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
"Oh, Alex," Simeon said, "All that would do is get a great big glittery mess all over our house."
Sunday, December 03, 2006
On this, the first Sunday of Advent, it is well to ask ourselves: For what are we preparing?
Are we preparing for the secular god of consumerism and focusing our attentions on material goods?
Are we preparing for the joys of Christmas only-- its celebrations and its feasts-- and what I have sometimes heard called the "true meaning of Christmas" with its sentimental notions of the child born in Bethlehem?
Or are we preparing for the Sign of our Salvation? For on that blessed night when Christ the Lord was born, the Angels told the shepherds of this Sign: A baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. A baby born in a cave in the bitterness of cold and in the darkness of night to a most pure virgin.
Of what is this a sign, if not the death of Our Lord when the virgin holds His cold and fragile body again-- now pierced and crucified-- and she wraps Him, once again, in strips of torn cloths and lies Him to rest in a darkened cave?
The Savior is soon to be born and this is the joy for which we prepare! But we, who desire His salvation, must also be prepared to receive this Sign and, like the virgin, plant it in our hearts.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Thank you all for your prayers!
In contrast to our previous experience, Our new landlord preferred us to other possible renters after seeing our home listed on the MLS with pictures of the inside. "I can see you take good care of your things," he told me today. That felt good.
Also, we are moving our closing date up so that we will be in this new place by Christmas.
When I told the children, they were very concerned. If we are in the new house on Christmas morning, they worried, would their stockings be hanging here by the chimney of the old house?
Friday, December 01, 2006
When I did see him, wringing his little hands, there wasn't any sign of disaster. "What is all your fault, Zachary?" I asked and he became immediately shy. And then I saw that he was just practicing a new phrase and testing, at two years of age, how it might feel to experience the realization of complete failure.
Have I told you lately, how much I love my Zachary?