Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The sound that all parents dread...

Yesterday, I left work early to have lunch with my mom and sister Shauna'h, and then go visit my grandparents. We had a smashing time. For inexplicable reasons, our local Olive Garden was jam packed at 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. As we relaxed over soup, salad and breadsticks, I noted the time: 3:30 pm. By time Shauna'h and I did our visiting, I'd be getting home later than I usually would when coming back from work. Thus, I gave Mike a call:

"Hi, Honey. We're just about to be on our way to head to my grandparents. I was thinking; how about I swing by and pick up Hank? That way, he could visit with us and you could get a break..."

"YES!! YES, that would be great!"

Mike and Hank have had quite a bit of togetherness lately, so I assumed correctly that it would give Mike a much needed breather for me to tote Hank around for a bit. We went and picked him up, and headed to my grandparents' new senior living complex. Their apartment looked real cute - all unpacked and homey. We greeted, and sat down for some tea as Hank went to explore all of their Christmas decorations.

As we chatted, my grandmother filled an enormous platter with homemade cookies. My mom's side of the family are Italian, second generation Americans; these people can seriously cook and bake. Despite the fact that we'd just eaten WAY too many breadsticks, there was no way I was getting away with not eating a homemade chocolate ball - or two. And then there were the anise cookies, and the cutouts...

With the scent of cookies in the air, Hank materializes and begins to squirrel cookies away into his hands. He's quickly consumed quite a few, and naturally, becomes thirsty. My grandmother asks if he'd prefer milk or juice.


"Ok. I have Cranberry-Grape."

Whoa boy. My grandmother has her hands busy with tea prep, so I get Hank a small glass of juice. I sit him carefully down *at* the table, push him in gently, and instruct him to be very careful. Clearly, I had just lost my mind. In what universe is asking a preschooler to be careful going to translate into actual careful behavior? I just figured that since he was pushed right up against the table, the cup couldn't possibly fall onto the floor.

Well. I'm certain you can see where this story is going. Within 3 seconds of returning to my seat and beginning to chat again, I hear the exclamation that all parents dread:


I look up to see Hank seated, with his hands cupped as if around a cup, but the cup is conspicuously missing. A feeling of horror wells up in my throat. I leap up, race over, and sure enough, the cup had managed to go onto his lap, slide to the floor, and splatter all over the cream carpeting. I groan.

"I sorry Mommy. I did not mean to do it."

Aw. Of course he didn't, little pumpkin. I reassure him that it was just an accident. All the same, we've got quite a situation on our hands. Immediately, Shauna'h, my grandmother and I grab paper towel and begin to dab frantically. I take a break from dabbing to whisk Henry's pants off his body.

"Mommy. Now everyone can see my underpants."

Well, that may be true, but it's better than dripping grape juice from your pant leg. We manage to get the juice up real good with the dabbing, and then some sprays of Resolve finish the deal. Whew.

We had a nice visit, and later I was able to get some laundry in as part of my pre-trip preparations. I also had to say goodbye to Shauna'h, who is headed back to North Carolina today. I'm super sad about this; Miss you Shaun :(

Tonight, we have lots of trip prep to do. Taking down and putting away the Christmas decorations and some house cleaning. We can pack tomorrow morning. I'm certain I'll blog from Florida, but I'm not sure which day. I'll be out of blogging commission at least for tomorrow. So...Happy new year everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feeling cozy

We got quite a bit of snowfall yesterday, and today we woke up to cooooold temperatures. Definitely the most of winter we've seen so far this year. It took me quite a while to get home from work last night, as blowing and drifting snow was creating whiteout conditions. It's particularly bad here on campus, where some of the wide open spaces between the main spine of buildings and the busier roadways are a haven for aforementioned blowing snow.

But crazily enough, I enjoy such weather. I'm definitely a four full seasons kind of girl. This morning, Mike went out to apply the snowblower to our driveway, and Hank and I stayed inside to get a crockpot full of chili ready for tonight's dinner. He was super cute, helping me put ingredients into the crockpot, washing out the cans of beans and then taking them downstairs to the recycling bin. It was totally adorable. One of those instances wherein I get babies on the brain...

I'm working today, but Henry is home with Mike for the full week. I'll be off starting Thursday though, so it's not too bad. Mike is very good with the stay-at-home-parent role during these breaks when Hank doesn't have preschool. When I was on maternity leave and home full-time I was a crazy woman. My hormone level was hovering around the super galactic level and I jumped and cried at every sound Hank made. My prayer is that should God bless us with another child, my knowledge of and experience with those post-baby blues will aid me in having a much better experience right after the birth. That was one instance in which winter was not my friend. Hank was born in November, and being shut up in the house by myself with a newborn all day, feeling afraid to take him out, was tough stuff. Next time, I'll be informed and plan differently. Grandmothers are more than thrilled to come stay with the baby for an hour so that I can get out to the store by myself, and next time, I'll take advantage of it.

I just called the school district to make my appointment to register Hank for kidnergarten. My baby!

Anyway, I digress. Today, Henry and Mike traveled to a second mall in our area (we went to the one near our house last night) in search of half price calendars. We're calendar freaks in this family. Disappointingly, our stop at 2 separate Day-by-Day Calendar kiosks elicited no wall sized Thomas Kinkade calendar nor the Monet one Mike wanted. Their stock seemed to be much slimmer this year. Mike and Hank's second trip today didn't go any better. The kiosk was closed in the other mall and no calendar salesperson was in sight. Many sighs of disappointment ensued. They were going to try the local Barnes & Noble this afternoon, otherwise we may have to order them online. This is a change from our usual pattern and we're very opposed to change around here. Every December 28th or so, we nerdily put on our winter gear and head to the calendar kiosk, all excited. We come home with 4 or so calendars (freaks, remember?) and hang them up gleefully in the kitchen, our bedroom and the office. Hank actually has a wood Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar, which he loves and eagerly changes the magnets on each month. He's obviously inherited the calendar freak gene. Precious dumpling.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy to be moving toward the new year...

...although technically, Christmas season only just started :) So, I'm finally back. I enjoyed my time off a ton. Henry is home with Mike this week, and I'm totally jealous. I wish I were home squeezing my munchkin right now. My precious cutie pie! Of course, right now, I have no idea what he is doing, but whatever it is, I'm certain that it's driving Mike absolutely crazy, and it's also likely to be peppered with 20 questions fired off at a speed of 1 per 1.1 seconds.

Before I move into the Christmas rundown (get a cup of tea, settle in...) I'll start with the adorable Hank gem of the week.

Henry, sitting on potty: "Mommy, can I have a baby in my home?"

I mean seriously, how can you resist that? That's exactly what he said. So cutely phrased! Makes me want to go home and get pregnant right this instant. This plan would also have the added benefit of me being able to leave work.

"Oh sweetheart, I don't know. It depends on if God gives us another baby. You could ask him for one if you like."

*furrowed brows* "But Mommy, how can God hear me?"

*conversation about God and prayer ensues*

"Oh. Ok. So...'God, could I have a baby?'"

*3 seconds elapse*

"Mommy...where's the baby?"

I love this interpretation. Sort of like, you know, we could go select a baby kit at the grocery store, get her home, add water, and voila! Instant baby :) If only it actually worked this way. If the kit came with a nanny to do nighttime feedings, I'd have 10 more kids.

So, Christmas. Where to start, where to start...It was ok. But as I anticipated, the holiday itself was pretty stressful. I actually enjoyed the weekend following Christmas better (feast of the Holy Family!).

Things kicked off Wednesday evening when I had dinner with my parents, my sister Shauna'h, and brother-in-law, Brad. The new puppy, Roscoe, came to visit as well. In a totally expected development, we all fell head over heels in love with Roscoe and he cavorted at my house and played with Henry for many hours over the course of many days.

His face was kissed for hours, and his very fur carressed by every member of the family endlessly. He was a *very* good boy. No furniture eating or pee pee on the floor. He did try to nip at the dining room area rug a few times, but hey, nobody's perfect.

So anyway, back to Wednesday. As I waited for everyone to arrive, I worked on a few dishes for the Christmas Eve bash. I could tell that my serenity was a charade and deep down I was tense when I panicked after finding pretzel rods in my cupboard. You see, I was making a dessert with a ground pretzel crust, and I had asked Mike to purchase pretzel *sticks*. I suppose in all fairness the rods do look a bit like sticks. As in, real tree sticks, that is. But anyway, I had to grind the rods up with my heels and the whole time Hank was clamoring for my attention. Due to my distracted state, I mistakenly added some ingredients to the wrong bowl and I panicked again. You see a theme developing here?

I was making an Asian salad, and I got that into the fridge. I moved back to my pretzel crust dish and realized that I needed 2 boxes of jello mix and I only had 1. Curses! More panic. This would require a trip to the convenience store, which I was certain would not be a fun time. I was able to stop and grab a box on my way to dinner, and the dessert was completed Christmas Eve morning.

Which was when the fun truly began. I was wound tighter than usual and tornadoing through the house like wildfire. Finally, we had everything ready and were dressed for Mass. My parents and Shauna'h/Brad were enroute to go to Mass with us, bearing meatballs in a crock pot. As we await their arrival, I receive a text message from Shauna'h:

"Running late. Meatball disaster."

This doesn't sound good. When they arrive, I receive a cell phone call from my mom who is IN THE DRIVEWAY:

"Meet me at the side door with a roll of paper towel." Oh Lord. I do as I'm instructed and a mysterious cleanup process gets underway in my parents' Honda Pilot. Shauna'h brings some stuff in, and finally the crock pot makes an appearance. I do some more cleanup, and my mom tornadoes in (see where I get it from?) and rushes into my downstairs bathroom. As I clean, she's talking to me, as she brushes her teeth. She just came from her house, so I'm not certain why (1) she didn't brush her teeth there, and (2) why she carries a toothbrush and toothpaste in her purse, but I ask no questions. I learned these important lessons fairly early on in my life. We rush out the door and hurry to Mass.

From that point on, there were no disasters, but everything was extremely chaotic. We made it through Mass, squeezed into 2 pews, but the church we went to was huge, and the collection and communion took a REALLY long time, so by time we got back to my house, I was all wound up to tornado again. I did my thing, getting a few last minute items into the oven to warm, and people started arriving. Everything went very well. That being said, by time the evening was over, the following transpired:

(1) I drank too much wine

(2) Mike was sick with a nasty cold/flu thing

(3) Hank was fall-down on his face exhausted. He actually asked if he could go take a nap. My poor pumpkin.

(4) End of the evening stress caused Mike, Brad, Shauna'h and I to have a shot of Jagermeister together in the kitchen. People, I drank JAGERMEISTER. That's the indication of a true stressed out Catholic Librarian.

By the time everyone had filtered out, it was after 10 pm, and I was desperate to get my poor Henry to bed. In my haste, I actually forgot to leave out cookies and milk for Santa (worst mother of the year award nominee) and to sprinkle reindeer food out onto the front walk. When Henry noticed the next morning, horrified, the lies just slipped off my tongue like butter:

"Oh don't worry Honey! Daddy and I put some out, and he must have eaten every bite!!"

But at any rate, when we went to bed, Mike was coughing and I had a headache. During the night, I woke up with a full blown hangover. That's pretty tough to do considering I was only drinking boxed Franzia White Merlot. Oh right, the Jagermeister. Sigh.

I had to actually get up for some ibuprofen and go lay on the couch for fear of waking Mike, I was so miserable. Suffice it to say that I'll be a little bit more careful with my Franzia next time.

Anyway, Henry came down in the morning, and I still felt pretty crummy. Poor Mike was really sick, and after Hank opened his presents, I sent Mike up to rest. Hank and I watched the papal Mass for a bit, and apparently the pope was also having a challenging Christmas Eve :) I was worried that we were going to have to leave Mike behind, but after his nap, he rallied. We proceeded to my parents' house, where we mashed into their living room to open gifts. My mom also keeps her house headed well above 70 degrees, so it was a tad steamy in there. It was nice visiting with everyone, but I was anxious to head back home and have some more breathing space.

After the actual holidays, things improved. We went out for a nice lunch on Saturday, and I had my parents and sisters over to watch football yesterday. I spent lots of time kissing Roscoe's snout and cuddling him lovingly. This week we're headed to central Florida to visit Mike's parents and have a Christmas with them. Lots of family togetherness...

I'll go easier on the wine this time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feeling perkier

My post yesterday must have been therapeutic, because I awoke this morning feeling refreshed and excited about Christmas Eve. After I ate breakfast, I tornadoed through the house a bit, emptying out the votive holders for fresh candles and changing the dining room tablecloth, but I cut myself off pretty quickly.

Tonight, Henry and I are going to be preparing two dishes that need to set and chill overnight, and my sister Shauna'h may come over with Roscoe, the new puppy. I told her that so long as he didn't eat my furniture, we'd be thrilled to have him. I don't mind fur for a few hours and the threat of pee pee on the rug - I do have a child after all, I'm very used to that. She assured me that he doesn't chew, and is potty trained, so a fun time should be had by all.

I amped up my holiday playlist so that the kitchen can feature festive music, which I always find soothing. Mike did the grocery shopping for me yesterday, which was a huge help. Of course, this means that I had to surrender control of the list and what actually got bought to him, but I had to deal. He only left off one item, poppy seeds, which he deemed "ridiculously expensive," so I guess my party bread bowl is going to have to do without those. No biggie.

I'm feeling better about the whole thing than I have in months, which is a very, very good sign. I'm not sure if I'll be blogging til I'm back at work on Monday; maybe I will, maybe I won't. But in either event, a very merry and blessed Christmas to all of you!!! Rejoice in the newborn King :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Readying for Christmas Eve...

Christmas Eve is approaching, and this year Mike and I are hosting. Naturally, this event causes no small amount of anxiety on my part. Some people like to host. They're good at hosting. I'm not one of those people. Well, I suppose that I'm not *bad* at it, but I definitely don't thrive in doing it.

I'm Martha. You know, the one that was in the kitchen, spouting vicious obscenities while covered in flour and cleaning the kitchen, as her sister Mary lounges angelically at Jesus' feet? I just can't help it - having all those people in my house makes me incredibly nervous. And see, already? I make it sound like random marauders are going to invade my house at approximately 6 pm on Thursday. These are my FAMILY members. Yet it still drives me to drink.

Based on years past, I can predict how events will transpire:

The evening before and the morning of Christmas Eve, I will drive Mike crazy as I fritter around the house and clean, straighten, and bake with the sublety of a tornado.

We will go to the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. Hank will drive us a bit crazy, and we'll come home tense and cranky. Then I will open the box (yes, BOX) of wine and commence to drink it. I will drink just enough so that I'm loosened up and (somewhat; it's tough to break through a steel wall with a hammer and chisel) more laid back for when everyone arrives. I will put my last minute things in the oven and set the food out. I will sip more wine.

As people begin to arrive, I will begin to sweat. I will get caught up in a flurry of getting drinks for everyone, putting coats upstairs in the master bedroom (and NOT the more visible downstairs guest room, which I want to use for seating space. It's not going to be easy shoe horning 20 people into my house), taking things out of the oven and likely burning myself, and attempting to prevent Hank from depositing the contents of his toy box in the middle of the living room floor and making it appear as though a bomb went off in there. I will lose all of these battles. I will sip more wine.

In the midst of all this, my well-intentioned mother will arrive to help me, and inevitably she will dump 10 shopping bags full of things I don't need onto my kitchen floor. I will have to deal with placing aforementioned items out of the way as people step over me to access the drinks. My mom will ask me lots and lots of questions, a child may vomit, and my anxiety level will peak. I may move on to scotch.

Everyone will eat, and I will remain nervously fluttering about the kitchen. By time I stick a cube of cheese onto my plate, all guests will be done eating and want dessert and presents. The clean-up process will begin, during which time a dozen women will try to squeeze into my kitchen and wash dishes. Present opening chaos will begin in the other room. By the time all dishes are washed and presents opened, will I be tired? Nope. I will be strung out on adrenaline waiting for everybody to leave so that I can attack the floors with a broom and vacuum cleaner and dust the coffee table.

I am, in a word, insane.

All the news this week about Brittany Murphy passing away from a heart attack at 32 years old has got me to thinking. I need to chill out. One day (hopefully in the far distant future) I will no longer be here. And at that point, am I going to care that my house is clean and exactly the way I want it, finally? Or am I going to cherish the memory of a Christmas with my family esconsed in my wonderful home? With my uncle, healed from cancer and physically and spiritually thriving? With the knowledge that his daughter, my cousin, is also thriving and healed from a bout with cancer, expecting her second beautiful child? With both of my mom's parents still here and celebrating with us, married for the past 61 years?

I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm not quite 35 years old, and I have a loving family and supportive group of friends, an adoring husband, a beautiful child, a warm home, a faith that I love, a career that I enjoy, and hobbies that I cherish. A person really can't ask for any more than that in life. And at Christmas, we are called to look upon our lives and appreciate how they all reflect the Saviour. So, I'm going to try to do that.

My Living Faith passage for the 4th Sunday of Advent has an appropriate reflection:

"For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Luke 1:44-45

I am struck by the vulnerability in the story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth. Mary, traveling alone to the hill country; by Elizabeth, having a baby in her old age; by Mary, pregnant and unmarried in a culture where she could be stoned to death.

Perhaps I notice vulnerability because there seems such precariousness in the human family at this time. In these days near Christmas, when there is so much traveling to the homes of loved ones, I pray that we can greet each other like Mary and Elizabeth in trust and gratitude even in our vulnerability. May we remind each other: Blessed are we who believe that what was spoken to us by the Lord would be fulfilled - God is with us! May our spirits leap for joy."

On Thursday, I will be vulnerable. But I pray that I can focus on the proper things and appreciate and cherish good fellowship, as Mary and Elizabeth did during their pregnancies. I always loved that accounting - even the mother of our Lord needed to seek out her cousin to lift her spirits during a difficult and confusing time. At Christmas and always, I pray that I strive to see the Lord's face.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The 4th Sunday of Advent and the Catholic Librarian makes a gingerbread house...

The image to the left is what the gingerbread house is *supposed* to look like when one finishes. Well, I suppose it looks like that in the photo because a professional pastry chef decorated that one. At least, that's what I tell myself. Because this weekend, Henry and I cracked open our gingerbread house kit, and the following is what ensued...

When we started, I was in a good mood. I flick open the box and put on some Christmas music. Pretty soon, Hank and I are singing along and unloading our equipment. And then I glimpse a look at the directions:

"To make the frosting, add water and confectionary sugar, then mix...."

Whoa. I have to *add* something? Requiring me to add and mix *anything* when it comes to baking will mean frosting flung up onto my kitchen ceiling. Every.single.time. I guess I assumed that the frosting was in a pastry bag, ready to squirt. This shows you the level of incompetence we're dealing with here, people.

I'm feeling slightly more apprehensive, but Hank is clamoring excitedly beside me, and for his sake, I press on. The directions say that the finished frosting should have the consistency of toothpaste. Well score, this looked pretty pasty to me. With no small amount of trepidation, I pick up the pastry bag and snip off the end. I put the squirter thing in it and shovel in some paste. Let's just say it didn't go well. My paste soon had the consistency of 'cement.' No way that was gonna squirt out the pastry bag. I quietly utter a swear word, empty the bag back into the mixing bowl, and try again. Dismissing the directions, I add about 10 times more water than called for, grit my teeth, and start up the handheld mixer. This time, though not paste by any stretch of the imagination, the gook in my bowl actually looked like frosting. I taste it. This happens, many, many times. It tastes good. Gold star.

I slip some into the pastry bag, instruct Hank in holding up the gingerbread house walls, and attempt to pipe some frosting on. The fiasco that ensues seems funny now, but didn't seem quite so hilarious Saturday afternoon. I could see the Gingerbread Daily Sentinel headline now:


By squirt number 3 of my beleaguered pastry bag, the little squirter apparatus burst right out because I had cut the hole in the bag too wide. Curses. I grab a butter knife and attempt to slather the frosting onto the cross points. It doesn't go so well. I cannot get those bloody gingerbread walls to stay up. By this point, I'm shooting dagger glares at the gingerbread house kit box. I finally just slathered frosting onto the roof pieces and let Hank go to town decorating them with candy. He put every single piece of candy on his roof piece and declared it "Beyoutiful." He was happy, thus I was happy.

That picture, that included intricate frosting lattice work, garland and window boxes? Lies, all lies. I fail to see how any regular old , non-professionally trained mother and child could make their gingerbread house look like that.

When Mike got home, we were on structure collapse #19, and luckily he stepped in. He's a civil engineering student, so perfect. Next thing I knew, the house was standing AND had the roof secured. It's decorating still looks woeful, but our gingerbread house is finally structurally sound. Amen.

4th Sunday of Advent...Our parish didn't have Children's Liturgy of the Word this week and Hank behaved less than angelically. I managed a much better parental 'dealing with it' performance, however, and we made it to Communion and out of the church without a humiliating scene. I consider this a great victory.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Back from the abyss

So, yesterday was T day - the day of my Tooth Extraction. I've been dreading it for some time. I make it sound all dramatic, but actually I only had the upper left wisdom tooth taken out. The lower left was taken out years ago, when I was a teenager, and the other two are very much still in tact and kickin'. But as you know, I loathe going to the dentist.

Prior to yesterday even happening, I was already in a vulnerable mood. Wednesday afternoon was the big office holiday party, and I gotta be honest - I hate going to those. I'm an introvert. Situations that require me to enter an existing social situation and try to integrate myself make me break out into a cold sweat.

And here's the situation that inevitably unfolds: I wander in and look around. Conversation circles have been formed. I fill a plate of food that I don't even want to kill some time and try to spot the circle that looks least imposing to enter. Then comes the nefarious Attempt to Enter the Preexisting Conversation Circle. This is particularly uncomfortable. You try to catch the eye of a person that you know, wait for the right moment to insert your body into the circle, and start laughing at a story you didn't even hear. You're now in the circle, but you're not certain if you've been officially accepted yet. You shift uncomfortably with your plate and take a bite of a dipped veggie waiting for someone to acknowledge you. Once someone talks to you, you're golden. You are now a member of the circle and can hang there until a better one forms, when you then have to Extract Self From the Conversation Circle. This can also be dicey, especially if you're in a circle with a known talker that keeps making lots of eye contact. It's always best to avoid their circles entirely if at all possible. Of course, sometimes they enter your circle and you have no choice. That always happens at least once per office holiday party.

So, I endured that, and then had the evening reference shift. This decidedly put a damper on the amount of beer I could consume at the office holiday party. No biggie. The beer room was a rowdy place in which several of my co-workers appeared tipsy and were playing beer pong, something that I never wish to see again. I avoided the beer room after one small sampling of Christmas lager. So, reference shift, and then I met my college girlfriends out for a late snack and some gossip. By time I got home, I was exhausted.

And what was waiting for me? A big fat packet from the school district informing us of the upcoming kidnergarten registration and orientation for MY BABY. My baby!! My baby who just months ago was sleeping snug in his infant sack and peeing through our sheets every night. Well, ok, that wasn't months ago, that was 4 years ago, but still!! My baby!! It seems like just yesterday that he was a babe in arms, with those skinny little newborn limbs, nursing away. *sniffle* The whole thing made me very emotional. I tore myself away from the packet and told Mike that I needed to immediately get pregnant. He patted me and told me that everything would be ok.

And what did I have to look forward to? Right, a tooth extraction. I got up yesterday morning and dragged myself to the office as if I were being marched to the gallows. Actually, it wasn't all that bad. My dentist is very soothing and efficient. The numbing process was by far the worst part, and then she had the tooth out within 5 minutes. I pitifully made my way home, where I encountered something that is totally unprecedented. The house to myself.

Mike was at school delivering his last lab report and Hank was at preschool. I immediately made a beeline for the tv, turned on the Golden Girls, took out my crocheting, and sighed in bliss. I finished two ongoing Christmas projects - a scarf for my grandmother and a pair of socks (good ones this time!) for my mother-in-law. I watched 3 episodes of the Golden Girls and a schmaltzy Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel entitled Mr. St. Nick. I took a walk in the snow (with Mike, who was home to study) ate soup and generally lounged. I made some bread and dip to take to my bellydance holiday hafla today. Later, Mike and I watched Christmas in Connecticut on TCM while I knitted. It was like the best day ever. After the dental visit, that is.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last minute shopping...

I ran out at lunch today to do some final holiday shopping. Well, I say that like I won't have any more to do after this. I do. So I suppose this was part 1 of final holiday shopping, because tomorrow should be the very last day. I headed to Macy's to pick up an additional present for each of the mothers and my sister. Naturally, what also ended up in my arms was a burgundy knit sweater for myself (for Christmas Eve! I'm hosting and feel I deserve some strong consolation) and some earrings for an as yet undesignated recipient - possibly myself. Well, everything was on sale for a special Macy's One Day Sale, plus I had a $10 off coupon for all sale items totaling over $25. I found these beautiful handmade earrings, crafted by a company called Silver Forest, in Vermont. The earrings have a definite indigenous look to them, and come to find out, the company specializing in making earrings that incorporate nature and ancient cultures. Right up my alley. And they were all 40% off today at Macy's. Christmas earrings :)

Anyway, the mothers and sisters are done. I just need one more toy for my youngest nephew and I think I'm done. I think. Oh, and we have a new nephew puppy in the family, Roscoe. He's so cute it hurts your eyes to look at him. I'm certain he will end up with a squeaky toy so that I can have the pleasure of watching him play for a straight hour.

I mean, how could you resist this face? Seriously. I think even the most hardened person would take a bullet for him.

So, that was that. I'm certain part 2 of final Christmas shopping will be tomorrow, since I'll be off from work. I'm having a wisdom tooth extracted tomorrow morning and I'm feeling decidedly whiny about it. I hate dental things, hate, hate, hate. My dentist is nice, I like her, but I wish I never had to see her ever again. When they put that needle in your gum to numb you, why does it take f.o.r.e.v.e.r? Whenever I have to experience that, I inevitably end up squeezing the sides of the dental chair so that I won't cry. Hate, hate, hate. Somehow I managed to birth a baby but yet the very sight of a needle makes me weak in the knees. *sob*

So I won't be blogging tomorrow, most likely. I'll be home sipping tea and crocheting, probably. I'll most likely wrap. Perhaps I'll nap. It'll be like Being a Cat For a Day. Super cool.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So cute you can hardly stand it

Last night after I got home from work, I showed Henry his customized Portable North Pole video. It was one of those moments wherein you feel that you should have 10 more children just so that you can experience this cuteness again and again.

The video loaded and began to play, and it was as if Henry and Santa were having a personal, intimate conversation right there in the living room.

"Hi Santa, Hi Santa!! Mommy, he said hi to me." Complete with adorable wave at the computer screen.

As Santa mentioned things, "You're 4 years old..." Hank would answer back in utter seriousness, "I am." His eyes widened when he saw that Santa had his picture right inside his book, and when Santa told him how proud he was of him for doing better with not interrupting people when they're talking.

At the end, the piece de resistance. Henry flung his arms around the computer screen,

"I love you Santa!"

I mean, how can you even analyze something so cute? He watched it twice, and exacted a promise from me that he could watch it again today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hank's Portable North Pole Video

This is so cute, I simply have to post it. This is Hank's personalized video for the Portable North Pole. I *love* it, especially the part with Hank's (adorable; I can't help it, I know he's my kid, but he's SO cute) picture in Santa's book.

You can pick the 'Santa secret' at the end (i.e. 'how does Santa get to all those houses in one night?' 'how does Santa fit down the chimney?') and as you can see I chose 'how can Santa tell who has been naughty and who has been nice?' I have to admit, it creeps me out a bit that Santa's answer is that he has all these little elves that go around peeping in windows and reporting back to him, but hey, nobody's perfect :)

Weekend hip dropping and other Advent business with Henry...

Work is crazy busy right now, hence the reason I didn't get to blog on Friday. I finished my book chapter this semester, but my tenure dossier needs to prepared in just over a year *perspires*, and I really need to get another peer-reviewed article published in that time. So, I'm working on that, and I got some writing done on Friday. But of course that colossal project has to take place in the larger context of all of my other daily responsibilities, so it's tough. The tenure thing is kind of cool (especially for a librarian) but it's also super scary. If you don't get tenure *you lose your job*. That's an awesomely petrifying possibility. Hence all the panicked academics frantically trying to publish something (anything!) in a short period of time. *mops brow*

I also had bellydance on Friday, which as usual, was a highlight. Instead of coins, I'm now dropping pink fringe every time we belly drill. My purple hip scarf is great, this is the other pink one I got. I thought it would be totally low maintenance because it has no coins, only sequins. I was wrong. Everytime my hips go into overtime the thing coughs up more fringe. Oh well. I'm much more acclimated to the new class now and have been accepted with open arms. So I'm really looking forward to learning our new routines and doing a few performances in the spring. Claire mentioned that we'd be working on solo segments within the larger number after the holidays, and naturally, that kicked the sweating into high gear. But I have to admit, I'm secretly terribly excited.

On Saturday, I transported Henry to Walmart to scout out snow boots. Naturally, the Transformers and Spider Man variety attracted him like a magnet. He chose Spider Man, and I have to say, these are nice boots. Henry can put them on himself and velcro them right up, saving Mommy oodles of time. Those went right into the cart. Mike was home studying for an engineering exam, and I wanted to give him some additional quiet time in the house, so I lingered. My natural attraction was over to handbags, and I really did need a new one. My current purse had a strap that was on the verge of breaking right off, and it did this funky thing right on the shoulder, making it hurt everytime I slung it on. I browsed about happily. Some persuasion had to be employed to keep Henry quiet, and thus he was bribed appropriately with a Spider Man watch. For $6.00 it was totally worth it. I found a new purse in chocolate brown with a nice wide width, and lots of organizational capibilities. For $15, I was a happy camper.

Later that evening, my mom and I took Henry to a local shrine to view their annual Christmas lights. He was a terribly good boy and impressed all the pilgrims :) He actually loved the church the best, which had several side chapels for candle lighting. We lit a few, he loudly knelt and said his prayers, and Mommy beamed with pride.

"Mommy, can we go back in that chooch?"

The candle lighting in the chapel brings us to our Catholic Librarian gem of the week...

While I was assisting Henry in selecting a candle to light, I squatted down. It's never, ever a good thing to hear a ripping sound when one squats down. Not ever. I quickly stood up and assessed the situation. I suppose this is divine payback for making fun of Papa Bear for splitting his pants open in The Berenstein Bears Eat Too Much Junk Food, because yes, I suddenly had a giant hole right in the seat of my jeans. And I protest this develop loudly because I swear, I haven't gained any weight. I mean it! I weigh the same as I have since I had Henry. The thing is, these jeans are old. I don't even remember when I got them. The seam just wore out and gave way at a particularly bad time. But I love them, and I remember wearing them when Mike and I honeymooned in San Francisco. So I was majorly bummed by their demise.

Anyway, I had bigger fish to fry at that precise moment, which was that I was at a religious shrine and I had a giant hole on my rear end displaying my underwear. Luckily, my coat goes down past that point, so as long as I didn't bend over, I was good. I walked around woodenly through the gift shop and made do ok. I selected a pretty pair of rosary beads to keep in my coat pocket and a small children's book on St. Peter for Hank. All was fine until we got back out to the car. *sighs*

I had to get Henry strapped into his booster seat and as was no surprise, he was tired, cranky, and protesty. I had to struggle to get him settled and buckled, and the whole time, the lower half of my body is hanging out of the car, bent at the waist. This wouldn't really be that big of an issue (it was dark out, after all) except for the buses. Yes, you read that right, the BUSES. There were 4 or 5 buses parked in the lot, and by time we left, they were full of people ready to head home. Full of people, with headlights shining. Yep, right on my ass. It couldn't be helped. I tugged my hat down and prayed for anonymity. God is merciful, right?

We arrive back at my parent's house for the Catholic Librarian's Dad gem of the week. On my parent's front lawn are displayed lit nativity figures. My dad had been busy while we were gone. Holding steady were St. Joseph, Mary, and several lambs. They all looked a bit adrift, because baby Jesus was decidedly MIA. We get in the house and ask after little Jesus' whereabouts. My dad scratched his head and said, "Oh, they're not all out there? He must still be in the garage." I laughed all the way home about that one.

Yesterday, of course, was the Third Sunday of Advent, the all important pink candle day. Hank did well at church and we added our gift under the Giving Tree. When we got home, we arrive at the Henry gem of the week...

"Mommy..." *points to the stockings hanging on our fireplace mantle* "Why do our stockings look like Santa's shoes?"

Speaking of Henry, this morning, at the suggestion of my boss, I went to the Portable North Pole. Parents, you simply *have* to check this out. You can create a customized video from Santa for your child, and it's too, too cute. I did one for Hank, and Santa greets your child by name and tells him he's been good. He opens up his book, and on the "Henry" page we see a picture of Hank with his age and Christmas list. He talks about the things Hank has been working on (when I saw the "Not interrupting people" selection in the preschool category, I snorted with delight) and praises him for his efforts. SO, so cute! I can't wait to show it to him later.

Ok, I've procrastinated long enough. Many book reviews and articles to write...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Halfway through Advent, and weather-related calamities...

Well, almost. This coming Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent, and as those of us who are nerds know, that particular installment in Advent includes the lighting of the ever noted pink candle on the Advent wreath. I never knew what the heck it meant until recently. Pink candle Sunday is actually called Gaudete Sunday; it marks the approximate halfway point of Advent and reminds us to keep joy alive, because Christ is coming. Advent is technically a penitential season (hence all the purple), though that's certainly not the way it's really portrayed in the culture at large. Christmas season is the joyful season, which does not begin until Christmas Day, and runs through the feast of Jesus' baptism in the second week of January. Mike and I were married on January 8th, which is still part of Christmas season according to the Church's liturgical calendar. Interesting stuff.

We're keeping up with all of our Advent traditions at home; Hank loves his Advent calendars. He's all excited about the pink candle this week.

In other news, today marked the first winter storm of the season for us here in the Northeast. We had some snow last week, but accumulation was pretty negligible. Last night, the storm system moving in was so windy that it kept me up for most of the night. We have old windows in our house, and they rattle something terrible when it's windy. So I was fairly cranky upon wakeup.

I was pretty surprised, though, to find that many local schools were closed for the day. I mean, really? We're Western New Yorkers - we are hardy with a capital H. There wasn't *that* much snow on the ground. Probably an inch or so (and I know this sounds crazy to people that don't live by the Great Lakes) but less than 3 inches is what we call a "dusting" of snow here. I think because it was the first storm of the year, and the wind chill got down pretty low, that's why people got all ferhoodled. Because seriously - we navigate snow around here as measured in *feet*. The snow plow and salt truck comes by, *snorts* we're good to go.

Amusing anecdote of the week - Last New Years Eve, Mike, Hank, myself and my sister Shauna'h (who was home for the holidays but en route back to her house in Charlotte, North Carolina) packed into the car and headed for the airport that blustery morning around 4 am. Mike, Hank and I were headed for Central Florida to visit my in-laws. The weather was so bad I feared our flights would be cancelled. It was snowing like crazy, and it was windy. But the kicker was that we were at that point deeper into winter - thus, previously existing snow drifts sat around everywhere. When wind gets to these previously existing snow drifts and blows them about, theeeeennnn you got yourself a bad situation. So, this is happening, and we make it to the airport safely while I bite my nails in the passenger seat. We park and get out of the car. Heavens to mergatroid, I thought we'd all blow away, get stuck in a snow drift, and be frozen there until the spring thaw. The snow had blown around and created *new* piles, and they were so deep they went to my knees in some places. We had all the luggage, so I literally could not carry Hank as we made our way to the shuttle; I held his hand and prayed he wouldn't disappear into a drift.

I don't ever remember feeling so cold as that moment as we tried to navigate our way to the shuttle stop. A shuttle suddenly drove by, and despite all the signage that shuttles only stopped at the designated stops, we looked up pleadingly, and the driver stopped and let us on. I'm certain our dragging of the adorable 3 year old through snow drifts that went to his eyebrows helped our case a bit.

When we got to our gates, our flights were not cancelled. They were merely delayed while the planes were efficiently de-iced. As we watched out the window, gigantic snow plows raced furiously up and down the runway clearing them off with nary a speck of snow remaining behind. And then we took off without incident. Snow has met its match around here.

Ah, winter related memories. Despite the above, I love where I live. And I actually prefer the cold and snow of winter to the heat of summer. I'd never survive in the South. Freakish? Yes, most likely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Catholic customs...

I've been thinking a lot lately about my faith and all of the things that I do in my life to make it more personal for me. Advent certainly has invoked that, as well as the November thing I have going on that I blogged about a few weeks back.

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to The Catholics Next Door podcast (linked on my podcast list, if you're interested.) This show consists of weekly excerpts from Greg and Jennifer Willits' daily show on The Catholic Channel, available through Sirius/XM satellite radio. They do an excellent job with it, and never fail to have interesting guests and topics. The specific show I was listening to this morning was from 3 weeks ago (I'm a tad behind; I don't get to listen to my podcasts as often as I'd like) and Scott Hahn was their guest.

I like to think of Scott Hahn as a "Catholic celebrity." Most Catholics have at least heard of him and his well-know and well-respected conversion story, as well as the pleothra of theological books that he has published. On the podcast, he was talking about his most recent book, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots. This immediately captured my attention.

Dr. Hahn talked about the phenomena of non-Catholics wondering about "those odd things Catholics do" and about the fact that, as a convert, he wasn't aware of the totality of riches the Church has to offer by way of customs and devotions until long after he was confirmed. Dr. Hahn is a renowned Bible scholar, and his books always delve into the Biblical basis for Catholic doctrine and beliefs. So his take on the everyday Catholic devotions that are so dear to me intrigued me. I took a peek at the table of contents on Amazon - he covers a ton of stuff, including holy water, the rosary, the sacraments, the sign of the cross, and - ! - Advent and Lent! This is SO up my alley. It's on my Amazon wish list, for anyone that is intersted in Christmas ideas for me :)

In other book news, I just finished the library book club selection for December, The Princess Bride. I know that this is considered a classic, but it was just 'eh' for me. Mostly because fantasy is just not my genre. Certainly, this is a charming book, and parts of it made me laugh out loud. I didn't dislike it, I just didn't love it. I'm happy to have moved on to yet another entry in the knitting fiction genre. Bliss...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is one of the Marian feast days that I just love. I know that Mass attendance is way down for these holy days of obligation that fall in the middle of the week, but I love them. To me, taking time out of my work day to force myself to relax and turn my thoughts to God and His plan for our lives is a treat. We have a very active Newman Center here on campus, and it makes it very convenient for me to get to Mass, which I'm very grateful for. Parking is at a premium at the university I work at, and it's a pleasure to be able to walk to Mass.

As I was waiting for Mass to begin, I thought back to the Second Sunday of Advent and the family Mass I went to with Hank. He was very good again, and went up for the Children's Liturgy of the Word. Following Communion, he loudly said his prayers, and a woman stopped me on the way out to comment on what "a good, sweet little boy" I have. This is true. But I couldn't help but think to myself, "Clearly you weren't at this Mass about 5 weeks ago." Ha :)

Anyway, I'm working on a book review right now; I write reviews regularly for a Catholic library journal, and right now I'm reviewing the interesting title A Community Called Taize: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation. I usually get lots of librarianship stuff to review, as well as all of their Native American spirituality books, so this was a refreshing change just for some variety. It's a personal story of a man's pilgrimmage to the ecumenical Taize retreat in France, and as you know, personal stories really resonate with me.

Tonight, I'm headed home to watch The Year Without a Santa Claus with Hank and Mike, and I'm very excited about it. I love the music from that movie; you know, the heat miser (sp?)? I can't help but tap my foot when that comes on the radio.

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Henry gems...

I'm feeling a bit better, although my nose is on FIRE. My cold is finally draining, and I'm certain I don't have to provide any more details for you to know what is ailing me about this situation. My neck also, mercifully, is mostly better, though some lingering stiffness remains. It's just encouraging to know that I'm on the upswing.

I'll post more extensively tomorrow, but figured I could post a couple of Hank's recent moments.

Anecdote #1 - I send Hank into the downstairs bathroom to use the potty. He heads in, and then is quiet. This is a very bad sign. I go to investigate, and discover Hank standing on top of the toilet seat, staring into the mirror above the sink. Directly across the way, above the toilet, is a mirrored vanity.

"Mommy, look. Look at all those Henrys." *furrows brow* "Why are there all these Henrys, Mommy?"

Anecdote #2 - Once again, Henry is attempting to go potty, and I'm trying to catch some football scores in the living room.

"Mommy! Come quick!"

This most certainly is not a good sign. I hurry in. Hank is sitting angelically on the potty.

"Oh Mommy, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to. I got pee pee here..." *points to shirt* "Here..." *points to pants" "And there..." *points to radiator* "And there..." *points to rug* "But Mommy, it wasn't me! It was my penis!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Let it snow...

It's snowing here in Western New York, and call me a freak, but I love it. I feel very cozy right now, albeit a bit cranky. I'm still sick, and I now have a bad stiff neck to add to the fun.

Last night, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work and picked up the fixins' for chicken noodle soup. I made something else light for dinner, and then went to work creating a gigantic pot of soup that I could consume for the duration of the weekend. I chopped vegetables, and Hank added them to the pot. He's very cute about helping out with such things. The amusing thing is that I accidentally bought an overabundance of carrots recently (I had forgotten about the giant bag I bought to go in the soup I made for Alyssa after she had her baby, and bought another one :) ) and Mike has been teasing me about the sheer volume of carrots we have in our refrigerator. We're not planning to get a village of rabbits through the winter, so what the heck are we going to do with them? he asks.

So I got the carrots out last night to add to the soup, and many, many chopped carrots later...we STILL have enough carrots to feed a small army of our cotton-tailed friends. I innocently added "veggie dip" to the grocery list and hoped Mike wouldn't notice.

The finished soup feels heavenly on my throat, so all is well. I hope my mood improves, though...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I came, I saw, I conquered...

Last night while I was on the reference desk, trying to stay awake, Mike called to say that he and Hank trekked to a local Target (one which indicated had the tv we wanted still in stock) and, well, it was out of stock. He was pretty cranky about this development. He said that Hank was exhausted and hungry, so they were packing it in for the night.

Despite my physical deterioration, I sprang into action. Frankly, it gave me some purpose on an extremely slow evening on the reference desk:

"Where's course reserve?"

"Right over there."

That was the extent of my patron interaction for the evening. Clearly, I had some time on my hands. I went back to, found our tv, and once again did a search for local Target stores that had it. It was still indicating that the store Mike and Hank had just been to had it, so naturally, my skeptical glasses came on. I found the next closest store that claimed to have it in stock, and called over there.

After suffering through several minutes of the automation system, I was patched through to Electronics. A rushed sounding high school student answered my call:

"Can you hold please?"

Sure. So I held, praying that no one would choose this moment to come to the desk. He came back, and I described my query.

"Huh. Let me check for you."

Several full minutes later, which included a full-out "Attention Target Team Members" request for back-up, he comes back on.

"We have one of those tv's left in the back."

Well. Clearly, I now had a mission and I was out to complete it successfully. I told him that I'd be there in just over an hour, after I got out of work, and signed off. I immediately called Mike, and we agreed that I should journey over to that Target location after my shift was over and try to snag that tv.

The tv in question is a Vizio 32" flat screen with 1080 pixels. Everything we were looking for, it got super reviews online, and it was marked down a full $80 this week at Target. I also had a coupon that would earn a $15 Target gift card with a qualifying purchase, of which the tv would be one. I was SO on top of this.

I hung up and glanced at the clock. I still had 45 minutes to go in my shift and I felt like I had ants in my pants. I nervously cleaned the reference desk and kept my hands busy until 7 pm mercifully rolled around. I put on my coat and zoomed out of the building. The Target in question wasn't that far away, but it was raining, traffic was slow, and many, many red lights lay before me. I was determined that nothing would stand in the way of me laying claim to My Future Television Set. I just felt it; he was going home with me.

I arrived at Target and leapt out of the car, faster than a speeding bullet. I made a beeline for Electronics and quickly sized up the situation. The beleaguered high school student was still there, as were many, many other Target shoppers. This one poor kid had a LOT of requests for his attention, and I was only going to make his shift that much more difficult. I stalked him carefully around the department and finagled my way into his view. He recognized my voice from the phone, and assured me he would have someone get the tv. I breathed an audible sigh of relief. I had to wait awhile while they fetched it, and he was all apologetic, but honestly, I didn't mind. So long as that tv was earmarked for me I didn't care if they all went out to a dinner party before ringing me out.

Finally, the big moment arrived and My New Television Set was wheeled out without a lot of fanfare. I made sure that it rang up as the sale price, and me and my tv were released into the wild.

Then came a tricky part. No Target Guy assisted me out to the car, and here's me with this giant television set box and a tiny Honda Civic to stuff it into. By myself. To add to the fun, it was raining. Hard. I pulled the cart up next to the car and prayed for the best. I opened the back door, grasped the box, and...nothing happened. The box was big, bulky, and wet, so it was slippery to boot. I put my gloves on for some traction and tilted the box differently. This time I got a better grip on it and was able to lift it. It actually wasn't that heavy, it was just awkward. I managed to work half of it onto the back set, shoved right and good, and met with an obstacle. Right, Hank's car seat. That required a bit of wiggling, but finally, the tv was resting comfortably.

I hopped in, and called Mike triumphantly on my cell phone. A mini phone celebration ensued. I had a bit of a ride in front of me to get back home, but 25 minutes later I pulled into our driveway, and our new tv was home. We call him Vizio, and we're all very happy.

Mike came out to carry him in, and had him set up before I even got my coat and boots off. We watched a bit of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on AMC, I knitted, and all sighed blissfully.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Catholic Librarian in nurturing mode...

So, yesterday morning, I schlepped Henry to the pediatrician to receive the H1N1 flu mist. I couldn't decide which I was more freaked out about - the virus or the vaccine. I'm very pro-vaccine, but given the newness of this H1N1 craze, I was more leery. But I trust my pediatrician, and he recommended that Henry receive the vaccine. So, I made him an appointment and took him.

All went well, it was very quick and easy. The thing that makes me nervous about the mist (they were only giving the injection to children with compromised immune systems or allergies to eggs) is that it's a small dose of the live virus. Several parents I've talked to reported that their child had a minor reaction to the mist - nothing major, but some low-grade flu-like symptoms the day or so following the mist. So, last night, I was watching Hank like a hawk.

He and I were home alone in the evening with Mike teaching, and I followed him around a lot and kept feeling his forehead. He laid down on the sofa to watch an episode of Scooby Doo, so I covered him lovingly with a crocheted throw and went to fold laundry. As I was folding, I thought to myself:

"Gee, my throat feels kind of funny. Eh, oh well."

*10 minutes transpire*

"I have a tickle in my throat. I better get some water."

*5 minutes transpire*

*CL delicately blows nose for the third time in a 30 minutes*

"Huh, I'm awful stuffy. Leftover allergies, maybe? No big deal."

And then, the moment of truth comes...

"Gee, my throat downright hurts...Oh. OH NO."

Yes. I'm sick. Nothing I can't handle, mind you, but a cold all the same. And I'm weak, stuffy, cranky, and I feel all floaty. And somehow, I have to manage to work the evening reference shift tonight. Where I also won't be able to obsessively monitor Hank's movements. Shoot.

*sighs* I'm currently holed up in my office, downing tea. I wish I were home making chicken noodle soup and mopping Hank's brow. I know he'll have a fun evening with daddy, though. In a grand bit of irony, as if our television set sensed that we were angling to replace him with a larger, flat screen, HD ready replacement, our tv started malfunctioning. Mike and I decided last month to purchase a new tv and have that be our sole Christmas gift to each other this year. He and Hank are bound for Target tonight, to pick up a very nice model that is on an awesome sale this week. I hope that they manage to snag one.

Last night, with no tv to watch, Mike and I played Christmas music, and he read while I worked on the scarf I'm knitting him. I have to say, it was very, very pleasant. We used to do that a lot more frequently (when we had satellite radio through Dish Network) and we need to get back into the habit. We have Verizon FIOS now, and although I really love the service, the music stations leave a lot to be desired.

So, during our evening relaxation time, I perused two books that I picked up for my dumpling at the Scholastic book fair held at his preschool this week. See if you can identify which title Hank selected, and which I selected:

Book #1 - A Transformers action book that includes a Doodle pad for learning to draw our transforming friends.

Book #2 - A charming book entitled Library Lion, in which a lion helps out at the public library by shelving books and licking the envelopes for overdue notices.

I'm certain this is not a tough quiz. I just hope I make it through the day without keeling over.

Oh! Before I forget. One last anecdote. I made it to daily Mass today at the Newman Center, and during the prayer of the faithful, someone made this petition:

"For our ancestors, who passed the faith on to us, and who are praying for us to live out our faith today."

I really loved this. Our faith is an ancient faith - we have inherited it, and we are not in it alone. A great cloud of witnesses watches over us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent reflections...

I know, this has been a real theme around this blog lately. But I love Advent :) And, as I've mentioned, I love the cycles of the liturgical calendar.

This past Sunday, after Hank processed adorably up for the Children's Liturgy of the Word, I whipped out my new St. Joseph Sunday Missal. I happily followed along for the readings, and during the collection, as I sat in the pew awaiting Hank's return, I thumbed into the back. I found a lovely history of the liturgical year that I thought I'd excerpt briefly; it really demonstrates why I love the liturgical calendar so much (emphasis mine):

"Every Sunday, the Church keeps the memory of our Lord's Paschal Mystery. She sanctifies time, consecrates it to God, and as it were inserts us into the History of Salvation. Within the cycle of a year, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ - from his foreshadowings in the Old Testament to his majestic Life and Work in the New Testament.

Thus, the feasts of the Liturgical Year are first of all celebrations of the History of Salvation. The mysteries of our salvation are to be honored not as something past but as something present, for while the act itself (e.g. Christ's birth, death, resurrection, ascention and the descent of the Holy Spirit) is past, its effects are present. Each feast puts before our mind the sign of some hidden sacred reality, which must be applied to us. We should celebrate the mysteries of our Salvation as happening to us now and we should undergo their mystical effect with an open heart..."

Love that. The whole thing ties so nicely into the Sacraments themselves. Exterior signs of an interior reality. I also took to the selection from Living Faith for the First Sunday of Advent:

"God is With Us - There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay...Be vigilant at all times and pray...Luke 21:25, 36.

Sometimes we Christians tend to think Jesus came to sing us lullabies, that when things are comfortable he's with us and when they get turbulent we've lost him - like the disciples in the stormy boat. Here this idea gets turned upside down. When powers are shaken, the skies rearranged, nations disturbed - then we know 'God is with us.' That's what Emmanuel means, the name Mary and Joseph carried with them into Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary's world was not at all comfortable when God decided to be born into it.

Advent asks us to look forward (to the end times), back (to the Bethlehem journey) and within (to our hearts) and discover in all three one thing: God is with us. Emmanuel. Prayer is our ally. We may feel pulled by Christmas preparations, shopping, baking, gathering, hosting, visiting. But preparation for Christ's nativity requires prayer and vigil. Deep within, in the silence of human pain and hope, his word is uttered.

Lord, teach me to pray and keep vigil, so that your Word is born into the world."

Good stuff. I love the joyful feeling in Advent, and the sense of anticipation. As an adult, this has taken on a much more spirital tone for me, but I still share in the excitement for Christmas morning via Henry, and it's so, so wonderful.

Our Advent wreath is adorning our dining room buffet currently, and Henry keeps grabbing the pink candle and asking me when we can light that one. I love that, because the pink candle was always my favorite too :) I'll write a longer post on the meaning of the pink candle when it's time comes for the Third Sunday of Advent, but my recollection is that the pink color reflects the need to keep vigilant and joyful for the ever imminent arrival of Christmas, less than 2 weeks away.

Today, we can finally open the first window of Hank's chocolate Advent calendar, and he's nearly bursting his pants with excitement. He made a strong pitch for why we should open the window at 8 am this morning, but I wasn't buyin' it. I can't wait to get home to him tonight...