Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Travels with your Catholic Librarian...

Originally posted on January 2, 2010 :)

Mike, Henry and I are in central Florida, visiting Mike's parents, and are having an excellent time. We arrived, exhausted, on New Years Eve. I was fearful of a terrible flying experience just given the current craziness of our airport security situation, but actually everything wasn't bad. I particularly hate airport security in the winter. Where we're from, at least, winter translates into wet, muddy puddles on the floor from everyone's wet boots. And of course, at airport security, we all have to take our shoes off, which I HATE. I normally love being shoeless, but not with soaking wet socks in the middle of the airport. And then we have the Henry factor, and traveling by air is a big fat wet blanket.

"Are we there yet, Mommy?"

"When are we going to be there, Mommy?"

"Is the plane landing yet, Mommy?"

"Is it time to be there yet, Mommy?"

It's too bad they don't sell valium in those little airplane drink bottles.

At any rate, we arrived safely, and that's all that matters. We had a nice new year celebration, and I went to Mass with my mother-in-law yesterday to her local parish. There's definitely a dearth of traditional Catholic churches down here. Well, actually, there aren't that many Catholic churches here at all. I'm used to the northeast, where the majority of the population is Catholic. There was much guitar strumming and audience practicing of the responsorial psalm prior to Mass beginning, but I can't complain. A girl with a beautiful voice sang accompaniment, the priest had an awesome Irish accent, and the Mass was lovely. I was just grateful to be there.

The only bad thing I've experience so far is the climate. It's not new news that I just don't like the climate here. The summer is excruciating, that goes without saying. But even the winter is just...odd. The air still carries a tremendous amount of moisture, and consequently it's all chilly and damp. And my HAIR; my God, my hair. The moisture in the air is killer on my hair. Did you ever see that episode of Friends where they all go to a tropical island and in each scene, Monica's hair looks more and more ridiculous? People keep asking her what's wrong with her hair, and she keeps saying "it's the *humidity*!" That's me. Every time I look in a mirror, I cringe. Even tied back in a bun or ponytail, little strands manage to curl up and make my head look like a giant Q-tip. It's bad, it's really bad.

Sigh. Tonight, Mike and I are going out to dinner, which I'm excited about. We're having a great time, but I'll be happy to get back to snow and single digit temperatures. Crazy, crazy girl that I am.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The sound that all parents dread...

Originally posted on December 30, 2009... :)

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 24, 2013

Readying for Christmas Eve...

The following was originally posted on December 22, 2009. Enjoy. :)

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 23, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Of rising water and forgotten candles...

Hi all! I hope that you all had a fabulous Fourth Sunday of Advent. Ours was...I actually don't know fully how to describe it. :-0 It was kinda crazy, but in the end, we came out strong. Let us debrief...

Saturday found us very tense. Our region was under a flood watch due to a storm that would be arriving overnight, and with part of our roof and kitchen ceiling in shambles, plus a basement that has been prone to taking in water, we were feeling apprehensive.

Exhibit A
Lovely, right? :-\ It rained all day Saturday, and despite having been dry for a few days, the ceiling started to ominously drip again. It was just this weird gray day, with us holed up and distracted. I was toying with going to the vigil Mass, but none of us felt up to it when the time came.

Overnight, the storm came and our basement flooded. Mike was up all night working with various pumps to get the water out. It went well. Our water heater pilot light went out because the water level got so high, but we got it relit. The basement is drying, all is well.

Sunday dawned with both Mike and I feeling grateful to have the storm behind us, and plans in place for appointments with various contractors and plumbers.


The sound of running water just doesn't have the same allure anymore, ugh. But I was grateful to be on the other side of this storm, and readying for Mass.

Still feeling a bit flustered - hence the veil only halfway on my head
And Mass was *lovely*. It was a cold morning, freezing rain having made the trees look like a winter wonderland, and I felt so happy to be moving into the church to worship with our community. All four candles lit on the altar Advent wreath = sublime.

One nice recent change in our parish is that our priest decided to make some logistical changes at communion based upon appeals for additional Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion going unanswered. I don't dislike EMHC's, but they do tend to be overused, at least in my opinion. :) Instead of 4 separate lines for communion (2 EMHC's in the back, and the priest and 1 EHMC/the deacon in the front) there is now only 2 lines in the front of the church. One line is administered by our priest, and the other is administered by the deacon if he is available or an EMHC. EMHC's also administer the Precious Blood at 2 stations off to the side. I have to admit, I much prefer this situation, and it really doesn't take much longer. We always sit towards the front anyway, so we were usually in the priest or deacon's line, but there is never enough people to warrant the back of the church lines. I like all of us coming together in the front, it feels more community-like.

So that was smashing. I'm sad to retire my purple veil temporarily, but it will come back out for a grand unveiling at Lent. :0

Back at home, I was a busy, busy bee while Anne napped. I wrapped all of our presents and it felt fabulous. I hate wrapping, and the floor contortions required made my aging body sore for the rest of the day, but no matter. THE WRAPPING IS DONE! I feel victorious.

Later, Mike and I went out to dinner for his birthday, and we reflected on coming through what turned out to be a fairly stressful week with all of the water involved at our house. It was lovely.

It was only this morning that I realized that in all of the craziness, we forgot to light the fourth Advent candle with the kids, mew! This is what happens when you lose brain cells and your mind is always on a million different things. See "aging body" paragraph, above. But we lit them this morning, so all is well. :)

So now you know about my Fourth Sunday of Advent! Would you like to share yours? Linkup below! I have enjoyed sharing this Advent series with all of you.  Perhaps this can become a Catholic Librarian annual tradition. :-0

Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 24} Christmas frenzy edition...

This is the weekend. The weekend that I will lose my mind and maraude around the house, cleaning and straightening, and wrapping and cooking. I do this prior to every Christmas. I will drive my husband and children crazy, but I will emerge victorious, gifts wrapped to within an inch of their life, house cleaned (hopefully of all paste-like substances that may or may not have asbestos in them) and ready to celebrate the birth of Our Savior. :0 Let us start the weekend with a bit of Catholic Librarian blog housekeeping:

-1- The winner of the Let Us Keep the Feast, Advent & Christmas edition giveaway is: Ruthanne!! Ruthanne has been notified and has already claimed her prize. Thanks to everyone for entering my giveaway! Stay tuned for a review and a giveaway of the Epiphany & Lent edition of the Let Us Keep the Feast books in early February! If you'd like to download or otherwise purchase a copy of the Advent & Christmas volume, use the discount code "LUKTFBlogTour” in the Doulos Resources eStore and you will receive 15% off!

-2- Annually, I use the Saint's Name Generator to choose a blog patron for the upcoming year. I saw a little prayer, and I do use whoever comes up, even if I've never heard of him or her before. 2013, our patron was St. Isidore the Farmer:

Interestingly, during the year, Henry took a huge shine to St. Isidore and this is now one of his favorite saints. I'd like to find the post wherein I discussed that, but Blogger's search function is currently not working, and it's driving this librarian insane. Anyway, I really felt St. Isidore's intercession over the course of the year.

So, this morning was the big moment. Our CL blog patron saint for 2014 is...

*drum roll*

St. Radegunde! (I just had to go double check that I had spelled her name correctly :0)

Upon my first viewing of her list of patronages, I am seriously hoping that I'm not about to be struck down with leporsy or some other unpleasant skin ailment and God is trying to prepare me for. ;-) But I see that she was married against her wishes to a man that abused her, and she lived with that situation for a long time before ultimately leaving her husband to join a convent (I do so adore nuns). Now, my life does not compare to this situation, certainly, I am very happily married to a wonderful man. We do not, however, share my Catholic faith, and so I'm certain that St. Radegunde can intercede for me that someday my beloved and I be united in faith. St. Radegunde, pray for us! Her feast is August 13th, right near the feast of the Assumption, one of my favorite Marian feasts of the year. *beams*

-3- Monday, I am planning a fresh post to write about my Fourth Sunday of Advent, and if I can get it all together at home (I usually blog from work, much easier; I don't have a laptop at home and have to fight for desktop time between Mike and Henry) I will have a linkup like what I did for the 3 previous Sundays of Advent. If you write about your Fourth Sunday of Advent, check back in Monday afternoon to link up your post!

-4- I take a blog hiatus between Christmas and New Years (Feast of Mary, Mother of God) traditionally every year, and this year will be no exception. I'm always back January 2nd bright eyed and bushy tailed, but blogging during that time is simply not very feasible, nor do I think you all are reading blogs actively like usual. What I am going to do is schedule a few reposts of previous holiday material for your reading enjoyment should you break away for some blog reading time amongst the holiday drinking revelry. Between Christmas Eve and New Years Day, I'll schedule maybe 3 posts. Keep an eye out for them. And I'll be right back to you on the 2nd to write all about my Christmas antics.

-5- And so what are my official Christmas plans, you ask? Well, we're staying home. We have a lot of family coming in to visit. On Christmas Eve, we get together with my mom's extended family. Christmas Day, we stay in and my immediate family comes to our house for dinner. That's where the "tornadoing" will come into play, look for the repost on that Tuesday. Good times, I tell you. Other than that, I'll be home with Mike and the kids, and we'll plan some family activities. I'm hoping to enjoy everything, and pray that the children will not drive us to drink. Anne has been sick, so that hasn't been going well so far. :0

-6- As part of my Christmas planning, packages have been arriving at our house daily. I think our mailman may soon go on strike. I have barely set foot in a store since the beginning of November, it's glorious. I shop online. For an introvert, this is Shopping Nirvana. I take my time, I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I play with my online cart, no lines to wait in, no children yelling and making it such I cannot hear the thoughts running through my own head, I can have wine, and yet, hark! I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO ANYBODY. This, my friends, is how shopping should always be. And so, our mail every day is an *entity*. I defend myself by pointing out that Amazon Prime shipping means that they often ship a single order in multiple boxes to get it to your quicker based upon what item is in what warehouse.

*furtive look of innocence*

-7- Finally, happy last few days of Advent everyone, and MERRY CHRISTMAS! I'll talk to you all soon!!

Check out other 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another game of "what's that sound?!"

As I alluded to yesterday, it's been an interesting week at our house. Not terrible, certainly not *good*. Stressful, but manageable. I'm maintaining my Advent joy. :0 Hence, let us begin...

This appears to be affixed over our house, for the time being
Monday, 8 pm: "The kitchen ceiling is leaking."

We start with a bang. We've known about this troublesome spot over the kitchen table since shortly after we moved into the house, but it had never gone further than an occasional water spot after a hard rain. We knew that eventually we'd have to address it, but it never made its way to the top of the list of priorities. On Monday, the situation had clearly accelerated.

What happened was that an ice dam manifested on that section of the roof. After a lot of snow the past few weeks, it's gotten a bit milder off and on. The melting snow refroze into ice and got jammed up in our gutters. As the ice thawed, it pooled in the weak section of the roof. Thus, the leaking.

Mike set up an empty wastebasket to catch the water. We fret.

Tuesday, all day: Mike contacts a roofing company and our insurance company. We gather information.

Tuesday, 5 pm: I come home from work to see that the situation has worsened considerably. The water is now dripping rapidly, and very loudly, into several containers that Mike has placed very carefully. The ceiling looks terrible. The water stain is large and angry looking, and the ceiling appears slightly bowed in that one section. This is ominous indeed. A roofer is scheduled to make an appearance Wednesday, but I can see the writing on the wall. Or, the ceiling. :0 The drywall isn't going to be long for this world. We can no longer use the kitchen table since the drip catching containers are in the way.

Tuesday, 8 pm: The dripping is slowly driving me out of my mind. Concentrating on a conversation or my knitting is impossible with the:

*Drip. DRIP. Dripdrip. DRIPDRIPDRIP!!*

...in the background. Dejected and worried, we head to bed early.

Wednesday, 2 am: Mike awakens, and heads downstairs to check on the dripping.

"How is it?"

"Well, it looks a bit worse. But the water is staying in the containers. We should be fine until morning."

Wednesday, 2:05 am: *CRASH!!!!!!*

We run downstairs to find the section above the kitchen table collapsed, the floor a mess of wet and disintegrating drywall chunks and plaster. The water, now freed from it's pooled prison, is dripping happily with increased speed, volume and volatility. All attempts to sweep up the drywall damage are met with:

(a) our broom becoming insufferable and having to go into the garbage can, and

(b) appearance on the beleaguered floor of a PASTE-LIKE substance containing God knows what hazardous materials ceilings were made with in the 1930's.

Good times, I tell you, good times. This goes on until...

Wednesday, 3 am: Mike and I dismantle the kitchen table and move it into the downstairs office.

Wednesday, 3:30 am: Mike drags out garbage bags full of sodden drywall. The state of our rag towels is horrifying. Those go down to the basement.

Wednesday, 3:35 am: We put down a tarp and set up no fewer than 7 containers to catch the now very spread out drips.

Wednesday, 4 am: We go to bed. Sleep does not come until nearly 5 am.

Wednesday, 6:10 am: I wake and glare at the alarm clock.

Wednesday, 6:35 am: I am still in bed, projecting a pissed off attitude into our bedroom. I reluctantly get up and get ready for work.

Wednesday, all day: Mike fields the roofer and the insurance company. Our home owners insurance will cover the cost to fix the interior damage. Fixing the roof will be another matter. Plans are made with the roofer for ice removal and repairs to come after the new year when everything dries out.

Wednesday, 6 pm: The dripping has stopped, for which we ignite a Halleujah chorus. A lot of mess remains, but we have to wait for the water pooling to officially be gone to enact a permanent cleanup expedition. Anne begins to cough. Ohhh. Foreboding.

Thursday, 2 am: *Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip*

Is this a nightmare? It must be a nightmare. Dripping has gone from innocuous background noise to THE SOURCE OF MY ETERNAL TORMENT. Then I realize the dripping is coming from the vicinity of our bedroom. Mike's bedside light slams on.

"It's that icicle! I'm going to try to knock it down!"

Next thing I know, Mike, clad in his boxer shorts, is opening our bedroom window while desperately trying to reach an evil icicle hanging from the roof.

"I can't reach it!"

We both glare at the window. The dripping continues. We get back into bed.

Thursday, 2:10 am: I'm drifting off.

Thursday, 2:11 am: Anne begins to cough.

Thursday, 2:12 am: "MA MA!!"

Thursday, 2:15 am: I'm rocking a warm and newly ibuprofened Anne, poor babe.

Thursday, 2:45 am: I get back into bed. Anne is sleeping. I break out Christmas at Apple Ridge, since I am wide awake.

Thursday, 3:15 am: I turn off the bedside lamp. Attempt to fall asleep.

Thursday, 6:15 am: I awaken in a volatile mood, beyond exhausted. I glare at the clock.

Thursday, all day: Ice is removed from our roof. Plans are made for damage repair, but those won't come right away. We're hosting Christmas dinner in less than a week, and the kitchen looks catastrophic.

Sometimes, my friends, such is the way of things.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Catholic Book Club: A Catholic Christmas

We're certainly festive on this blog of late, no? :) I have lots of other "life" stuff that I could share with you, but since today is a designated book club day, that will have to wait for tomorrow. A teaser: What was your Catholic Librarian doing at 2:30 am last night? It wasn't sleeping, I can tell you that. It involved muddy paste and possibly asbestos. Betcha can't wait!

Ok, so our December book is A Catholic Christmas by Kathleen Carroll. I fetched this book from our public library and had it read in just a few days. A quick and easy read!

The title of this book doesn't fully describe what the content covers, since the author addresses both Advent AND Christmas feast days. She gives a significant amount of detail for each one, as well. We begin with the origins of Christmas, and how the date of December 25th as the celebration of the nativity came to be. I had heard drips and drabs about this phenomena in the past, but this information cleared up exactly how the date came to be settled on by the Church. Fascinating stuff. She also talks about the rhythms of the liturgical calendar generally and includes an interesting piece about how the system for calculating the date for Easter was established.

Then we get to the feasts, my favorite part. :0 We have multi-page discussions of the feasts for:

(1) St. Andrew

(2) St. Nicholas

(3) The Immaculate Conception

(4) St. Lucy

(5) The Nativity

(6) St. Stephen

(7) The Holy Family

(8) The Epiphany

(9) The Baptism of Our Lord

Each chapter contains background information on the saint or occasion, and a discussion of how the feast is celebrated around the world. The author concludes with a few reflection questions and suggestions for incorporating the celebration into your home.

This is a lovely little book, I enjoyed reading it very much. It's only $9.99 for Kindle, or look for a print copy at your local library!

What did you think, dear reader? Has anyone else read this book and would like to comment? Comment away!

Next month we are reading Walking With Mary: A Biblical Journey From Nazareth to the Cross, by Edward Sri. My sister and I received a copy of this book at the Catholic New Media Conference, and I thought it would be perfect for January since we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God on New Years Day! Join in!

You'll also notice that I've updated the Catholic Book Club sidebar on the right to reflect the books I'll be reading from January through March. If you see something that peaks your interest, join me please! I'd love to have you read along.

Have a great rest of the day everyone! Talk to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A liturgical year book review - and a giveaway!

Lots of excitement, no? :) I am very pleased to be a reviewer of the Let Us Keep the Feast series of books from Doulos Press, chronicling the liturgical year. There will be 4 books total in the series, and yours truly will be hosting a review and a giveaway for a print copy of each! Lots of squealing going on over here, rest assured. I love this stuff. Let us begin with the first volume, which covers Advent & Christmas.

This series is edited by Jessica Snell, but one of the authors included in volume 1 is the fabulous Michelle Bychek of Liturgical Time, much beloved by yours truly for her blog and veil shop. The other co-author of this volume is Rachel Telander, who wrote the excellent Advent portion of the book. The books are written from a traditional Christian perspective, and are very accessible to Christians from a variety of affiliations. Including, of course, us happy Catholics. :)

These are slim volumes, but are packed with beautifully written and useful information. For each season (so in this volume, Advent and Christmas) there is a standard format for ease of use:

(1) Introduction - background and historical information, including relevant foundational Scripture passages;

(2) Calendar - highlights of special feast days therein;

(3) Traditions - Both historical traditions and suggestions for creative ideas to supplement those;

(4) In the Kitchen - Ideas for seasonal dishes;

(5) For the Very Young - Ways to adapt seasonal traditions to accommodate the tiniest among us;

(6) Things to Make - Crafts! The sure way to my heart.

(7) Beyond the Home - Ideas for celebrations out in your community;

(8) Resources - Lists of applicable Scripture verses, books, music and prayers.

Nothing pleases me more than a standard format for a series of books, it makes it so much easier to pull them off your shelf and use them as reference sources during the season in question. And the sections chosen for this series are just perfect.

The Advent portion discusses Advent wreaths and calendars, the Jesse Tree, and even mentions fasting (a long standing, but often not well-known, Advent tradition). *swoons with delight* St. Nicholas and St. Lucy make strong appearances, and indeed these are the two feast days that I really emphasized with my children this Advent. The resources section discusses the O Antiphons, and on this I really learned something. Of course, I have sung "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" many times in church, but I had not really put two and two together on this. The O Antiphons are the verses from this hymn, and for centuries have traditionally been recited or sung during the last seven days of Advent. Yes, that is December 17th through the 23rd, perfect timing for this blog post!! Each of the antiphons is fully listed in the Advent Resources section. Reading them evokes being in Mass amongst the lit Advent candles and a darkened sky permeating the stained glass windows. Just beautiful.

The Christmas section nearly brought tears to my eyes, it is so lovely. And this is the information that we need to share with others - Christmas is NOT a day, it is a SEASON! There is SO much beautiful tradition still to come following December 25th. In this section, we learn about the Christ candle, a progressive approach to laying out the family nativity set, the history and symbolism of Christmas trees, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and so much more. The author discusses the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, and the Holy Innocents. *Lots* of suggestions for activities with small children in this section, it is delightful! The children will be off from school until after the new year, and thus it is a perfect time to have crafty things to do together at home, especially if the weather prohibits outside play. Holy Name sugar cookies, anyone? Sounds delicious.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and cannot wait to read the next volume, Epiphany & Lent! Look for a review and giveaway of that volume to come in February.

This book is available both in print, and as an ebook from the Doulos Resources eStore, (*UPDATE: use the code "LUKTFBlogTour" to get 15% off your purchase!) as well as on Amazon. They are *extremely* reasonably priced, at $9.95 for a print copy and $1.99 (!) for the ebook. You may also download only the Advent segment, or only the Christmas segment, for a mere 99 cents! If you want to get right on those O Antiphons, download away!

There is, however, an opportunity to win a free print copy. I subjected myself to Rafflecopter just for you all. :0 It really wasn't that complicated, I'm just being curmudgeonly. I actually contemplated having you simply leave a comment and I would pick names out of a hat, just to let you know what you're dealing with here.



Anyway, enter below! This is for a bound print copy that includes both the Advent and Christmas segments. The giveaway is only open until midnight Thursday December 19th, EST! So enter quick like bunnies!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 16, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent - A winter wonderland

Morning all! It's looking very December-like here in western New York for this third week of Advent. Christmas is getting close. It's going well; I haven't felt frenzied this Advent. It's not *completely* going as planned, but that's ok, and it's been quite wonderful. So how was my Third Sunday of Advent? Let's discuss. :) Get some tea!

I wanted to take the kids to the vigil Mass on Saturday, but the weather didn't cooperate. My husband loves attending the vigil year round, I'm more of a Sunday morning girl. But in this part of the winter? It becomes my preference as well. I love seeing the Advent candles lit against the dark winter calm that permeates the stained glass. It's just serene and beautiful. But I digress (big surprise :-0). It was snowing and snowing on Saturday, and so we stayed in. Instead, I made another go at uncovering a salvageable nativity scene. Here we have Attempt #2:

No rogue Joseph in sight...
Much improved, no? I think my mother-in-law gave us this set. It's kid friendly and sturdy and the pieces are very cute. You can see the 3 Wise Men being eager beavers over on the far right.

Close up of the normal looking Holy Family, with angel to watch over them...

And the funny thing is, whereas Anne hardly looked at the much loved Fisher Price set (Henry was obsessed with it for years), she can't stay away from this particular set. She packs the figures up into her little shopping cart and takes them into the living room where she takes them out carefully and sets them up in new and inventive ways.  The lamb visits with one of the 3 Kings and baby Jesus cavorts with the donkey. It's all quite precious. So, we have a winner.

 Sunday morning dawned a lot of accumulated snow, but beautiful, clear conditions. Mike cleared the driveway for us, and away we went to Mass:

Doing my best to imitate the rose candle.
Not the greatest photo, I had to rely on Henry since Mike was shoveling the driveway. I don't have a pink eternity veil, and those are my favorite style, so I opted for a wide pink lace headband to match my festive rose sweater. *beams*

Off we went! The roads were in pretty good condition, but parking at the church was a bit of a challenge. With the significant shoveling/snow blowing that needed to be done to clear driveways and walks, huge piles of snow took up room along the curb and in the parking lot. I went through the parking lot without success, and had to loop around to the side street again. As I turned down it, I found that I had to stop to wait for a car that was letting a woman off near the doors, clearly having the same problem I was. A moment of irritation passed through me before I realized what I was doing - I was *rushing* during a season of expectant joy. Advent is about *patience*. Not to mention that I need to be charitable ALL of the time! It was a very good lesson.

I grabbed a street spot near the parish center and hustled the kids inside. The insanity that is Getting The Children Out The Door In Dead Of Winter Gear meant that we left the house later than usual, and the parking situation meant that we were then late for Mass. This is unusual for us, but I found that I didn't mind. We did the best we could. The church was full and the Giving Tree was packed with gifts (Henry brought ours up while I got Anne settled in a pew). It was a wonderful feeling to be together on the Third Sunday of Advent, contemplating the joy that awaits us with the birth of our Savior.

The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which in fact means "joy." The candle is differentiated from the others on the Advent wreath because of its color - rose, rather than purple. It's almost Christmas, but we still have over a week to go, and we need to just remain joyful and hopeful about what is to come. What a wonderful thing our traditions are, to remind us with this beautiful physicality of the spiritual gifts that are at our fingertips.

So now you know about my Third Sunday of Advent! Would you like to share yours? Linkup below! I'll have another of these weekly posts up next Monday for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Loving! Perhaps this can become a Catholic Librarian annual tradition. :-0

Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 23} Festive Christmas preparations edition...

-1- Eyeballs, anyone?

Today is the feast of St. Lucy!

Last night, the kids and I read about St. Lucy, who is a house favorite. Hank has always been fascinated with her. Every saint book that we've ever collected (and there are many, believe me) has always been scoured for the St. Lucy story.

So, this morning we skipped having Anne wake us up with a crown of lit candles :o but had buttered rolls with breakfast. I've really been enjoying this increased family celebration of saint feast day traditions. I'd like to continue it after Advent, it's been so enjoyable. In fact, this book is sitting innocently on my Amazon wish list. ;-) AND, there is another book that could help us in this endeavor, and you too! Check out take #4 below!

-2- *adjusts bun*

Attention all! The librarian is going to be hosting the monthly book club coming up! In fact, I'll be reviewing more than one book next week (once again, see #4 below). Wednesday, December 18th I'll be discussing A Catholic Christmas, by Kathleen Carroll, and I welcome anyone who has read this book to join me in the comments! I just finished last night, and even if you haven't picked this one up yet, you could still finish in time! This is a short book, an easy read, but it's jam packed with interesting information. I found a print copy at my public library, and you may as well. The librarian just told you to check the catalog, what are you waiting for, people?! Also, it's available for Kindle and you could download and easily have it read by Wednesday. She talks about the major feasts in Advent and Christmas seasons, it's perfect for this time of year.

-3- Ooh, la la!

Saturday's hafla has me all in a dancing frame of mind. Suddenly, I'm downloading new music and feeling all inspired. It's a nice feeling. My troupe has some fun performances coming up in the new year, so it's a perfect time to get inspired. We're dancing at a Lebanese dinner in mid-January, and then at a Mardi Gras party on March 1st. As well, summer festivals abound, so there is a lot to look forward to. We're going to be teaming up with the Bollywood and Flamenco dancers at the festivals to present a world dance performance lineup, which is terribly exciting. And speaking of Flamenco, I emailed the instructor. With Mike's blessing, I'd like to take her beginners class sometime in the new year. It's after Anne goes to bed, and near Henry's bedtime as well, but I don't like to be out of the house too much and make our family schedule all crazy. So, we'll see. But I'm excited with the possibilities!

-4- Giveaways!

Free stuff is always fantastic, no? As part of the Advent veiling linkup that I'm hosting, Veils by Lily is giving away winner's choice of a beautiful mantilla. It runs through Monday. What are you waiting for? Go enter! There will be one final veil giveaway next week, starting on Tuesday. Stay tuned for details!

Also, on Tuesday I'll be reviewing the first book in a series on the liturgical year. The series is called Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home, and this volume covers Advent & Christmas. There are 4 volumes in this series, and for each I'll be posting a review, and a hosting giveaway for a print copy of the book, throughout the year. These books contain lots of great ideas for incorporating traditions into your home relating to the liturgical year. So! Like I mentioned, come quick like bunnies over to your humble Catholic Librarian's abode on Tuesday to read more about this series and enter to win a copy of the Advent/Christmas volume. Exciting, yes?! I may even break down and explore Rafflecopter just to make this easier for you. I'm a bit behind the times with such newfangled technology. :-0

-5- Do you even *need* sleeves on a sweater?!

I'm hip deep in Christmas gift knitting, and it's going pretty well. I suppose. Well, I say "it's going well," as meaning "I won't finish, or ever START, everything that I wanted to, but I've accepted it, otherwise I will be failing in my mission to have a peaceful Advent and not drive my husband crazy with my panicked breakdowns." See? Always looking to the positive.

I did finish some small gifts back in the fall. My secret Santa gift for some (lucky? *look of innocence*) member of my knitting group is ALMOST done. It looks nice, although it too had a journey of me contemplating ripping it back and/or throwing it in the garbage. It's all part of the knitting process, this is totally normal. :-0 At least I *tell* myself it's normal. *clears throat*

Anyway, the only other thing I'm still working on is Mike's cardigan, and well... I long ago resolved myself to the fact that it won't be done. I can only work on it when he won't see it, so I'm very limited in how much progress I can make each day. I was hoping to have *most* of it done by Christmas day, but it's looking more and more like he's going to get a partially finished cardigan back piece with needles still attached wrapped under the tree. I'll include a photo from the pattern, so he'll see the potential. ;-) After the back piece is done, I'll *only* have the two front panels and sleeves to go. Oh right, and then it will all have to be pieced together and seamed, otherwise how would he wear it? *snorts* We'll get there.

-6- "Ok, let me just pull this side down...crap!! Where are the scissors?!"

I hate wrapping. I mean, I don't mind wrapping if I only have one thing to wrap. But at Christmas, I have a whole litany of things to wrap, and it just becomes a drag. And is it me, or is it inevitable that no matter how much wrapping paper you purchase, you will NOT be able to accommodate 1-2 of the gifts, either because they're too large or otherwise too awkwardly shaped? I just dread this. I should start now, right? So that I can do it a little at a time?

*long suffering sigh*

Believe me, I have contemplated not wrapping anything and just presenting the gifts to the recipients. *I* think this captures the spirit of the season better ;-) but I have been outvoted on this.

-7- Linkup about your Third Sunday of Advent!

On Monday, I'll be hosting another Advent Sunday linkup! I'll write about my Third Sunday of Advent (and yes, I'm planning on wearing pink, I'm a nerd) and if you write about yours, do link up! I'd love to have you.

All right friends, I need to wrap up. I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend! We're getting some snow and cold temperatures in my little section of the Northeast. It's also that time of year when it's dark longest and the days are short. Sounds depressing, but there is something so beautiful and sacred to me about this deep part of the winter. I love it. :)

Check out other 7 Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent succeses and (shhhhhh!!!!) failures ;-)

Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe everyone! Hank really likes St. Juan Diego, whose feast we just observed on December 9th. Tonight, we'll read all about Juan and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Henry's little saint book. I've really been enjoying this tradition we've started of reading saint stories before he goes to bed. Tomorrow is the feast of St. Lucy, and coincidentally I have a book about her for the kids that is out for delivery today. I have been keeping my poor mailman hopping, I can tell you. My Amazon Prime trial has been a resounding success. :0

This Advent, I've been enjoying the feasts that we celebrate much more than I ever have. My subscription to Magnificat is aiding in this effort, since I'm so aware of what is on the liturgical calendar for each day when I read Morning Prayer. And I've really been making an effort to share what I'm learning with the kids and start some new traditions this year. That is all going really well. We also have our Advent wreath out and have been lighting the candles each week, and the kids never let us forget about their chocolate Advent calendars, that is for sure and for certain. I've also been reading books set around Advent and Christmas, really keeping the spirit of the season in the forefront. This is all super fabulous.

There's always a point of failure though, is there not? :) I bought the kids a paper Advent calendar that I wanted to linger over each day and read the accompanying scripture booklet with them. Doesn't that sound lovely? So prayerful? Right, hasn't happened. Henry has been opening the windows each day, but he spirited the calendar away to his bedroom and peeked under all of the windows, and we lost the booklet, and...that just hasn't gone the way I wanted it to. Oh, and the Jesse Tree?

*sheepish sigh*

I'm going to admit it: I am a Jesse Tree Dropout. I have failed at this this year. Prior to the Saturday before Advent, I hadn't even thought about where we would *put* the ornaments each day. I figured we'd just stick them on our regular Christmas tree with the other ornaments. Further thought led me to believe that this approach was impractical. The Jesse Tree ornaments could get easily lost in the shuffle of the other ornaments and wouldn't stand out in any way. Then I tried to buy a separate tree for the Jesse ornaments. A frustrating trip to three stores later, I brought home this tiny Charlie Brown-looking tree that had a bright red cardinal perched on it amongst a gaggle of pine cones.

"Um, Sweetie? What is that for?"

"The Jesse Tree ornaments. Isn't it cute?"

"Well, yes, but do you think it's big enough?"

"Sure it is! The only other trees they had were these big 4 foot ones, I don't want one that big."

"Welllll...but don't you have 25 ornaments to hang on it?"

*pregnant pause*

"Oh. But they're small! Let me just go get the box..."

*eager scamper*

"Uh oh."


But the time I returned that tree ("Mommy, can we keep that cardinal?" "NO! Let's never speak of the cardinal again...") and remembered to print out the guide that Michelle sweetly sent to us, it was WELL into the first week of Advent, and I still had no place to hang the ornaments.

But I have learned some things this Advent. Which is to say, I should not *pressure* myself. I have all of the Jesse Tree ornaments, I printed this fabulous guide to the set in full color, and now I have a sense of how large a tree I'll need to accommodate everyone. After Christmas, I'll pick one up for a great price, and next year I'll be all set to add this into the list of family traditions.

So, look for another Jesse Tree update in November 2014. :-0

Oh, and one final note!! It has nothing technically to do with Advent, but Advent IS the start of a new liturgical year, after all, and I wanted to freshen this blog up a bit in celebration. You'll notice that there is a brand new "About Me" tab at the top of the blog. I included a bunch of photos and information about the various things that make up my identity (*beams*), and links to some of my favorite posts on these topics. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dancing Tuesday! Holiday hafla 2013

Well. I had just a magnificent time on Saturday. I was nervous, but I managed it better than I ever have. I get a lot of sideways looks from people when they find out that I am a dancer who performs regularly, because it doesn't seem to fit with my otherwise shy personality. And I don't blame them. :) I did dance as a child (ballet, tap, jazz. I was always a ballet girl, never cared much for the other two), and had an annual recital, but this whole Middle Eastern dance thing does certainly challenge me more. I dance in public places, I dance by myself, it's kind of crazy. But it's so, so wonderful. Dancing and interpreting music with your body is so freeing, so joyful. And this particular hafla had more than just belly dancers performing. We also had a modern dance duet, a Bollywood class and a Flamenco class. It was spectacular. Let us discuss. :)

I was dancing fairly late in the program, which did cause nervous anticipation to build, no doubt. But I was mostly able to enjoy watching without letting my nerves get to me. I saw a few solos, and the other belly dance classes perform. Then the Flamenco dancers. OH MY GOSH. I am now obsessed with Flamenco. :) BEAUTIFUL!! The music is *gorgeous*, as expected. I had never seen Flamenco dance before, and they do a lot of footwork (baile :))with carefully timed stamping. I adore the skirt swishing (I'm certain there is a beautiful Spanish word for this that I am not aware of), and they also use lovely hand gestures called palmas. These are similar to what in Middle Eastern dance we call hand undulations, but in Flamenco the fingers are far more separated, and they also use handclaps.

I watched the group perform with fascination. I loved their beautiful red and black gowns with roses tucked in their hair. There was one woman in the front of the group who was *outstanding*. I heard her fretting afterward that she had made a mistake, but I saw none of that. As the group danced, I saw only her, she was SO good. I noticed that the dancers did not smile when they danced, it seems to me that Flamenco is a more serious, passionate dance. And this favorite dancer of mine had the absolute perfect facial expressions, the emotion of the music just played out on her face like a book. I was entranced. I have already emailed the instructor about when she is offering a beginner class after the first of the year. :0

Ok, so moving on. Loved the Flamenco. Then our group danced the first of two numbers, which went well. This was the very first number I danced in for the night, and so I was more nervous at this point than I was later in the show. When I'm nervous, I notice that when I try to smile my cheeks quiver, I HATE that. Claire always tells us "try to smile, but if you can't, just look pleasant." So I did my best to look pleasant. In looking at the photos, it appears to me that my pleasant face isn't all that different from my anxious face:

The Anxious Face
...but I did what I could.

Part of the problem was that the audience was a bit...quiet. I managed to beam at a woman who seemed to drift off before my eyes. Clearly, she was not worthy of the beam. I took my beam elsewhere.

Like a lot of American audiences that I've seen, I got the feeling that this audience felt like it's impolite to make noise during a performance. This is interesting, because ordinarily I agree with them, but for dancing, appropriate noise is a very good thing. Encouraging, even. But I think that American audiences are used to things like...ballet. Where we don't make noise. At all. But other types of dance? Noise people!!

At any rate, that number went just fine, and you can see above that I even got my veil tied around my hips well, which doesn't always happen in the heat of the moment, so I was pleased. It was time for a short intermission, then a round of solos. Of which I was the last.


I had a kicky number planned from the album Cairo Nights, vol 1. Starts out fast and upbeat, transitions to a slow taquism, and then finishes with a drum flare. I really love it. I tucked my veil into the top of my skirt so that I could pull it out when needed, and away I went.

I love this picture, because it captures me perfectly. I was HAPPY. I had no trouble smiling this time. I loved my music, I love dancing, and I felt full of joy. It went very, very well. I was improvising, and although I dance much more relaxed when I do that rather than when I choreograph a piece, the only thing I don't like about improvising is that there are always points at which I can only remember 2 movements. Hip circles for everybody! So I worry that I do too many of those favorite movements. But I've realized over time that the audience doesn't really remember what movements you perform. They remember your FACE. How confident you looked and projected, how you brought your joy and personality out in the performance. That's what makes a good performance in their mind. I projected my little heart out and danced.

My veil did behave at the taquism, like a good prop should:

When my drum flare part began, I could actually feel the crowd come to life. That's my favorite part of the song, and I could tell that my energy was having an impact on them even in their quietly polite state. :) That is a GREAT FEELING. When I struck my final post, I felt thrilled. I knew that I had given the best performance that I was capable of, and that's all I ever ask of myself.

After the show was over, the videographer sought me out to compliment me on my dancing. That, of course, meant the world to me. But my favorite part was when he said that he loved how much I smiled, that I was an easy subject to film because I was so joyful. To me, that is what dancing should be to all women. We should not allow ourselves to feel self-conscious or to let others make us feel self-conscious. Dancing is about joy, both within and what we project back to the audience. That is my mantra for the day.

At the very end of the show, our group had one final number, and finally, here is the promised wing picture:

That's me in the front, doing my best butterfly impression
It went well, but pieces with props are always fraught with danger. My wings nearly tangled with a troupemate's at one point, and I was afraid someone in the audience was going to lose an eye, but the wings behaved. Our costumes for this number are new, and I have a love/hate relationship with them. :) This is the first time I've ever danced in a bra and belt set, and I'm finding that the belt is extremely unforgiving. Lose a few pounds, and suddenly all of the clasps that you have put on are useless against the unrelenting grip of gravity. My belt was fine a few weeks ago, but a loss of two pounds had me fretting in the dressing room. I pinned it to my skirt, and it wasn't until I was dancing that the thought crossed my mind that maybe that wasn't such a great idea.


It was fine, but believe me, I won't be doing that again. Alterations: coming right up!

All in all, it was a beautiful night. I'm so grateful to have this thing in my life that I love and that has given me so much - joy, happiness, and even a fragile bit of confidence for a girl who was voted shyest in her senior class.

April 2011: Belly dancing at 33 weeks pregnant!

Have I mentioned that belly dance is also pro life? :) Isn't it awesome?! I once saw a video on You Tube of a pregnant woman at a belly dance *competition*. She came out wrapped in a veil. She did some flarey movements, turned around, unwrapped her veil, and spun back to display a clearly third trimester belly in her two piece costume. The crowd ROARED with approval and gave her a standing ovation. I mean, did you ever?!

I'm never letting anyone make me feel badly for belly dancing ever again. There it is, the "b" word!! Belly dance is feminine in the best possible way. It is beautiful. It is *family friendly*. It is amazing, and I love it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent - Ours was fun, how was yours?

Hello all! I'm coming off of a super nice weekend. Of course, I will detail everything for you. :) I had a *fantastic* time at our dance performance on Saturday, I'll write about that tomorrow. Also, just a quick note that Karen from Silver Hill Treasures is hosting a giveaway for a Spanish lace mantilla through Thursday, and the winner gets to pick the color of her choice! This is a gorgeous style of veil, enter today! 

Ok, so the Second Sunday of Advent. Here is mine:

All purpled up and ready for Mass!
I took the kids to Mass for the 10 am family liturgy. Anne had been cranky, so I was praying that she wouldn't embarrass me too badly. Away we went!

The Mass itself was lovely. Two purple candles were lit up on the altar Advent wreath. Anne seemed particularly taken with this factoid. I love the special Prefaces for Advent that we're currently using during the Sunday liturgies. I noted that we're still using Preface I of Advent. Next week we may move to Preface II!

Yesterday's reflection in Magnificat was from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, talking about the tradition of the Christmas Crib during this season of Advent, how one can set it up following the feast of the Immaculate Conception to share with Mary the immediate trepidation leading up to Jesus' birth. Love.

We made it through Mass with both children behaving well. I was grateful. Our parish sponsors a Giving Tree for families in need during the season and those gifts are due back next Sunday. Henry reminded me of that before we left. :)

Back at home, my battle with Anne to keep the Fisher Price nativity set set up nicely finally wrapped up. Anne: 1, Mommy: 0. She just wasn't really into playing with it and wanted her princess castle back downstairs, but nor would she leave the figures set up in an understandable fashion. Lots of nativity scene marauding went on while Mommy wasn't looking. I think if we had freshened up the batteries so that "Away in the Manger" could have successfully played when you pushed down on the angel that would have increased her interest in it. However, the "Away in the Manger" situation with working batteries quickly loses its charm and becomes a Near Occasion of I May Lose My Mind. Ask me how I know this.

In light of this, I crept back up into our storage because I know I had come across approximately four nativity sets when we were putting out the Christmas decorations. I thought I'd set up a nicer one beneath the tree since that is the reason we are doing all of this, no? There needs to be a nativity set up for Advent and Christmas.

Going through all of the stacked boxes in the storage was about as much fun as you would expect. The first nativity-related bag I came to I snatched up and headed back downstairs.

It quickly became apparent that I had never seen this nativity set before. I did remember both grandmothers saying they had given me nativity sets recently, none of which I remembered, so maybe this was one of those? I carefully dumped the bag out and found a motley assortment of characters. A lone evergreen tree, unlikely to be present in the ancient Middle East. A shepherd carrying a lamb across his shoulders who appeared to be made of a completely different material than his colleagues. A few sad looking sheep. *Two* cribs containing a baby Jesus. Mary. And...two other men.

*eyebrow furrow*

In no interpretation of the nativity scene would we have only two men, neither of whom appeared to be Joseph. Hum. Contender #1:

Who the heck is *this* guy?

One of the three Kings? I don't know, questionable. He's kind of tall, if that means anything. He *is* carrying something, but it's of indescernible significance. Of the two, I thought he had the most promise to be a Joseph stand-in.

"Hank, come look at the nativity. Does that look like Joseph?"

"No way, Mommy."


I had been holding out hope for Contender #1, because Contender #2:

CLEARLY *not* Joseph

And there were no other guys in the bag. None. I had put the shepherd out but then tucked him back into the bag when it became obvious that he was way out of his element with this crew. Ultimately, this set didn't last an hour under the tree. Too weird. I need to go back through the storage.


After our morning adventures, I had tickets to take Henry to see a local production of The Nutcracker. I had taken him last year and he loved it. There is always a beautiful display of nutcrackers and other trinkets for sale outside the theater, and as expected, Henry and I had a blast with that. I was very easily talked into purchasing a nutcracker to display for the season, and we picked out two ornaments to bring back to Anne, who had cried when we left without her. One of the ornaments is a beautifully decorated lollipop, and when I tried to put it on the tree Anne burst into tears. She loves it so much she's insisting on carrying it around with her. I drew the line at taking it to bed with her like she requested, it had to wait on her dresser for her to wake up. I'm thinking the decorative sprinkles are not long for this world. She did try to eat them, but that's not the full reason for why a bunch have fallen off. :0

The show was just beautiful. I have a tradition with my mom of attending every year, and it's just so lovely. The mood is always so festive, and I love watching dancing. I can't wait until Anne is old enough for us to bring her.

After we got back and put the kids to bed, Mike and I made a fire and watched The Thin Man with Myrna Loy and William Powell. It's set at Christmas, so it feels seasonal. It was a perfectly sublime day.

So now you know about my Second Sunday of Advent! Would you like to share yours? Linkup below! I'll have another of these weekly posts up next Monday for the Third Sunday of Advent. Isn't Advent life grand?

Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday {Take 22} Advent fever edition...

I feel like my Catholic Energy Quotient has been switched to "ON!" lately, and will remain that way through the Epiphany. Every day, I come across all sorts of little Catholic tidbits about Advent and the feast days therein that just make me squeal with delight. LOVE IT. I keep wearing purple too, and I have coordinating outfits and even veils to wear to Mass for all of the Sundays of Advent, including pink for Gaudete Sunday. I think this is the Catholic Nerd equivalent to having a pocket protector. So what are our tidbits for today?

-1- I am hosting a linkup for veiling during Advent, for anyone who is interested in such things. (I'm pretty sure this ties right back into the Catholic Nerd thing). There is a whole page detailing related veil giveaways and social media "stuff" as well, over here. If you'd like to linkup a blog post, we'd love to have you!

-2- The current veil giveaway, live through Sunday, is with Designs by Birgit. Enter to win an absolutely stunning black & silver veil, along with an organza pouch to keep it in!

Birgit has added an additional chance to win a separate pouch beautifully decorated in Catholic imagery. Go check it out! You only have a few more days to enter!

-3- Today is the feast of St. Nicholas:

...and last night I told Anne that we needed to put our shoes out by the hearth to await some treats. Although we have never done this tradition before, and thus she had zero direction, she wasted no time in hustling to the entryway to procure said shoes and place them carefully by the fireplace. This morning, the kids awoke to find small bags of chocolate coins in their shoes, as well as a book. I did order them some seasonal books, but inspiration for that struck too late for them to arrive in time. So, Anne got a book about Peppa the Pig, and Henry got a book about natural disasters. Although not exactly the most sacred of options, it warmed my heart to look up from my cereal this morning to see two little heads, not watching the tv, but poring over a book.

-4- For a penny today, you can download The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale, for Kindle.
I immediately downloaded it, and sent it to Henry's new Kindle, which is currently living atop the shelf in my and Mike's closet, awaiting it's big debut Christmas morning. SO EXCITED.

-5- I'm going to be hosting a series of posts every Monday about each preceding Sunday of Advent through Christmas. You can linkup, if you like. I'll write about our entire day, what I did with the kids, my experience at Mass, etc. Look for the Second Sunday of Advent's post right here with your friendly Catholic Librarian on Monday. Come keep me company. :)

-6-  Yesterday, I downloaded A Christmas Carol, and started reading it to Henry from my Kindle. He's very excited, but I can see his eyes glaze over the instant I begin to read. The language makes it very difficult to understand, to be sure. And I think it is for Henry too. :0 But I'm enjoying the experience. Every page or so, I stop and explain to him as best I can what is happening. The story is certainly capturing his imagination.  If we get through this, I'm also thinking of getting O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. (check: there is a free Kindle version, so I downloaded it). I've never read either of these books before. This classic reading is good for us, like eating our vegetables. :) If you have other suggestions, please leave me a comment!

-7- I have a holiday-themed dance performance tomorrow. I'm nervous. :0 I've always loved to dance, ever since I was a child. It does come naturally to me, but my personality makes it such that it's a struggle each and every time I perform. To, you know, *relax* and *enjoy myself.* That is why I should be doing this, no? Because I love it and it brings me joy? It does both of those things, but based on my anxiety-ridden behavior right before I perform one would think I'd prefer having my fingernails plucked off, one by one. I have music selected and cut to perfection, thanks to my sister. I'll be dancing solo for 3 and a half minutes. I'm also dancing with my troupe, but that actually IS fun. I'll be improvising, but I have been practicing with my music.

The important thing is that I love the music I chose, and it inspires me, so here's hoping that I channel that inspiration Saturday night. :0 I have my veil tucked into my costume to take out in the middle of the song during a slower section, and the getting it out and gracefully in my hands part can be a bit bumpy. God forbid a case of static cling should strike at an extremely inopportune moment. You laugh, but believe me, for belly dancers this is a very real nightmare. :0

All right everyone, talk to you again on Monday! I'll have the Second Sunday of Advent post up that day, and I'll blog about dance on Tuesday. Check back in with me!

Head to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent feast days: adding in some new traditions this year...

Hello all! Tomorrow is the feast of St. Nicholas, and so I thought I'd commandeer the opportunity to talk about some new things I'm doing this Advent. Related to this endeavor, I will soon be reviewing the first in a series of books about the liturgical year, which focuses on the Advent & Christmas seasons. That post will be up on Tuesday December 17th, so keep an eye out for it! There will also be a giveaway opportunity for the book in question! There are additional volumes that I will review as well, the second of which covers Epiphany and Lent. So excited!!

Ok anyway, I get all crazy when I talk about the liturgical year, because it's just one of my favorite topics. So where was I? Right! The feast of St. Nicholas. It's tomorrow, and this year we will be celebrating it with the kids.

St. Nicholas, of course, is where our Santa Claus tradition originally comes from, and as I emphasized to Henry when we broke the news last year that Santa Claus isn't real, St. Nicholas very much *was* a real person, a bishop. Known for his generosity, the other major story attached to him is in regards to him dropping off 3 bags of gold coins at the home of a man who was contemplating *selling off his 3 daughters* to make do. Good gracious.

We're going to have the kids leave their shoes out by the fireplace, and I bought little bags of chocolate gold coins to place in them. Henry and I will also read St. Nicholas's story in his saint book.

This is a great book, by the way. The stories are written for children' Henry's age (intermediate readers, age 8), and have lots of details that will capture their attention. I bought him the first volume, which begins with the January feasts, through June, to put in his stocking.

Ok, back to St. Nick. I'm also going to put out a small book for each child, as a gift. Yesterday, at Catholic All Year, Kendra drew my attention to a few Advent books for children, one of which concerns St. Nicholas:

Although it won't arrive in time for the feast day, I currently have this in my Amazon shopping cart. This Prime shipping speed is turning me into a salivating book hoarder. It will come by Monday, and I will enjoy reading it with Anne leading up to Christmas. I may have also added a wood St. Nicholas doll to my shopping cart. I'm admitting nothing.

Next Friday, December 13th, is the feast of St. Lucy, who is a favorite of Hank's. I think it's the plate of eyes that she's carrying in her hand. :0

While I was adding the St. Nicholas book to my cart (*innocent look*) Amazon "recommended" to me the following:

Even though Hank already reads chapter books, and this seems targeted to kids a few years younger than him, I actually think he will love this book. The reviews noted that it's for school aged kids, definitely too difficult for toddlers and preschoolers to understand, and when I mentioned a St. Lucy book to Hank last night, he gasped in joy. He loves her. This is also in my cart. *shifty look*
The tradition on the feast of St. Lucy, in Hank's words (since we have read her story in his various saint books at least a dozen times):
"So, the youngest daughter, that's Anne, right? She should wake us up on that day wearing a crown of lit candles. Carrying coffee and special sweet rolls."
Yeeeaahhhhh. So, we're not going to be following the St. Lucy tradition to the letter. Or, at least until we can trust Anne not to start a fire. But I'd like to look into baking some special rolls for that morning. 

Oh. And while I was shopping, Amazon had to go and recommend this:

I mean, do they have no shame? I see that the book is about a little Mexican girl's devotion to the Christ Child, and references Our Lady of Guadalupe, feast day of December 12th!!!! 
Right, it's in my cart. I'm planning to checkout before I leave work. :0
I'm very excited about what we have planned from now until Christmas. We have done family Advent activities for many years, but this year I am really feeling the *Advent* message, rather than focusing on Christmas long before that actual celebration. And I've been very annoying about telling other people about Advent too, and how fabulous it is, and how they should get in on a piece of the action.
It's Advent fever I'm telling you! :)