The Advent Post

Last week on Facebook in our local mom’s group a friend asked what traditions we all had for Advent.  I immediately summed up a handful of our traditions in the longest comment I’d left on FB to date. Ironically, the question was asked after a linked article which suggested ideas to keep Advent holy without burning out by Christmas.  Since Advent and Christmas are our favorite holidays, we do a LOT in those four weeks plus twelve days.  Immediately after posting, I began to fret.  What if I unwittingly sparked a FB argument about allowing your children to believe in St. Nicholas/Santa Claus?  What if I made someone feel like they didn’t do enough simply because we plan a lot?  What if my comment cause someone else to burn out?!  And when no one else had time or inclination to post their traditions in the com box that afternoon, I chickened out and deleted it, only to have people respond more the next day and wonder where my post had gone.  Comparison is the thief of joy, someone smarter than me once said, and they are right.  And I was, after all, being silly and thinking way too hard about it.

So I decided to come over here and wax eloquent about our Advent traditions, because here I can be verbose and often am! :) Those of you who have been following this blog over the last 5 years can probably take a snooze because you’ve seen it all before, and will most likely see it again.  So without further ado….

The Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent:

I make the Christmas pudding, keeping up an English tradition. Whether we actually eat the pudding, any or all of it, depends on the year, but I make it anyway. There was one year we forgot to eat it on Christmas. There was last year when we were sick and didn’t eat it until later. Still, the smells of the pudding steaming are quite delightful and it’s a great Advent treat because you have to let it sit for the interim between “Stir-Up Sunday” and Christmas Day.  This dessert is obviously not for everyone–it is made with brandy–but it smells good, looks Dickens-ey, and my husband gets to light it on fire. Win-win.

photo 2 (2)(Last year’s Pud, steamed and ready for the wrapping)

First Sunday of Advent

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We get out our Advent wreath, which depending on the year may be the lovely wooden German one I bought several years ago, or the felt toddler one. This year it is going to be both, but the German one will be kept out of reach. We bring out the Advent calendars and I go to Wal-mart and get a small real tree for our Jesse tree.  Some years that has doubled as our real Christmas tree–like the year we went to Indiana for Christmas and we put the tree in the van between the two front seats. When it got dark we plugged the lights in and gave everyone some Christmas cheer. Lots of people appreciated it as we passed. It was fun! But I digress. Anyway, the ornaments for our Jesse tree have varied from year to year from ones I’ve drawn myself to ones that I’ve printed from the computer. This year we’re doing these.

A perennial favorite are these sticker calendars. I’ve been using them with the kids every year since Trooper was probably 3 or 4. I like these because the kids get to put the figures anywhere they want, which leads to quite interesting and individual presentations. :)  I generally change up some of the numbers so the Holy Family are the last to go in.

"Sorry Mom, I gotta put Baby Jesus up here." "Why is that, son?" "There's no room for Him on the floor."

“Sorry Mom, I gotta put Baby Jesus up here.” “Why is that, son?” “There’s no room for Him on the floor.”

We also do a color-a-day calendar of an English Christmas village.I bought the downloaded file from here and just print off a copy for each interested child.  I allow them to tape the village to the walls of their room and thus add some seasonal decor of their own styling.

Then the Advent tree my father-in-law made for Trooper’s first birthday goes up as well. I usually put little notes in each door with an activity/prayer request/suggestion for the day to help the kids keep a “giving” mindset.

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(Picture taken while we still had wallpaper in the foyer. SO glad that’s gone!)

And then there’s The Goat.  In Gavle, Sweden, a 7-ton straw goat is erected every year for the Christmas festivities. A webcam allows you to see the goat in all it’s sometimes snow covered glory for ostensibly from the first Sunday of Advent through New Year’s, but I have only once seen it last remotely that far. This has been going on for 50 years (though not the webcam), and it’s an unofficial tradition for someone to burn the goat down at some point. Why the Goat-watch has become part of my Advent I can’t tell you for sure. I guess chalk it up to my love of the random.

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Finally our creche goes out–but not the Holy Family and their donkey. Despite my best efforts to have the kings travel up from the basement from Advent through Epiphany, they usually appear in Bethlehem pretty quickly. More on that in a minute.

Over the years, being a bookworm, I’ve amassed quite the collection of Christmas books for the children.  Generally I find we don’t read all of them, so this year I’m doing what I’ve seen other families do and wrap each book so that a child unwraps a book a day, then we read it together.

The Eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th.

By this time our Jesse tree readings bring us to Abraham and the promise God made to him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. So on this day we put lights on the Jesse tree.

We also put our window candles in the window to light the way for St. Nicholas. Our shoes go out either next to the Jesse tree or on our kitchen table (it used to be on the floor in the hall until the corgis arrived), and the children’s letters to St. Nicholas are left out for him instead of being mailed. My parents would practice this tradition for my sister and I (the shoes, at least), and even when I went to college I still received a St. Nicholas package. At college I’d put the contents of that package in my slippers and Mom always put some in for my roommates as well. One year I played St. Nicholas and left a treat outside everyone’s door on our wing of top floor St. Catherine’s.  Only one year can I remember not putting out my shoes for St. Nicholas day–and that was the year Trooper was born.

St. Nicholas Day, December 6th

So what do we find in our shoes come St. Nicholas day in the morning? Generally an apple, an orange (or clementine), and some form of sweetie. Mom used to give us peppermint nougats and a walnut, but somewhere along the line I gave my kids the Little Debbie Christmas tree cake. It’s the only day of the year I buy those things. A small gift is left behind for the kids as well.

Upon reading about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s childhood Christmas traditions one year, and how he mentioned a new figure would appear in the family nativity set each year, we began to add to our set as well so each St. Nicholas Day a new person or animal will show up.  I plan to have a pretty epic set by the time we have grandchildren.

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And some years the kids “add” their own animals from their barnyard set.

St. Nicholas day is also Trooper’s birthday so we celebrate big on this day.

St. Lucia Day–December 13th

In the evening we serve hot cocoa and saffron buns (if I’ve been industrious) or refrigerated cinnamon rolls (if I haven’t).  One of the girls will be our Lucia Queen. This year I might find a wreath that will stay on the older girl’s heads.  Hmmmm…..

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

By now our calendars are in full swing and we have made a lot of homemade cookies and lots of kid-colored decorations.

Generally if we are going to get a larger-than-tabletop tree we do it this day of the year, unless Christmas Eve coincides with this day. On those years we get the tree on the 3rd Sunday. We hold off decorating as long as we can, but it’s usually before Christmas Eve. (sheepish grin) And I will confess, we listen to Christmas music from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany (and sometimes earlier, but always until at least Epiphany).

On Christmas Eve the Holy Family appears in the creche scene.

But I think that covers Advent, and if I write any more,  I’ll be going into Christmas. ;)

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Yarn Along–It’s coming along!

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Picture of a good evening: a cosy quilt, my project, and a steaming huge mug of Breathe Easy Tea.  Yes, it’s that time of year again.

I’m not afraid of Armas anymore.  Once I got the hang of the chart (somewhere around row 14) it clicked and now I can hardly wait to continue. Unfortunately for speed and efficiency, I only average about a row a day. Still, I should finish in well under eight months at that rate. :) My husband loves watching the progress.

Alas, though, this is the best picture of the W.I.P. I have at present.  The rest of my camera roll looked something like this:

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(Our last warm hurrah.  Autumn is fading into winter fast.  I always aver we have three and a half seasons in our neck of the woods.  Autumn is the half season.  We go from 73 degrees one day to 52 the next and then it’s 46.  But I digress.)

Meanwhile here’s two of my knitting buddies.  Littlest had fallen asleep there and I had yet to move her back into her crib. I don’t know why Posey was still awake, but she was attacking the yarn bowl that’s on the low dresser at the foot of our bed.

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My reading was, like Ginny, the Soul Gardening Journal.  I do so love it! I also am three-quarters of the way through the book French Kids Eat Everything.  Both my cousin and my sister liked this book and I am very intrigued to say the least.  Well, amend that. I’m really liking it, too.

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Family Photo Session!

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Originally I’d planned to do our family photos over Thanksgiving, but when an e-mail coupon for Shutterfly coincided with one of their holiday cards deals, I decided It Was Time. Monday became Family/School Photo Day and my father-in-law gallantly came over to take the pictures over Haus Meister’s lunch break.

With the promise of Hallowe’en candy, the kids dressed up in their Church clothes/ Christmas dresses and got giddily hyper. Always the proper mentality before getting photographed for posterity.

Alas, Dino fans, he did NOT wear a hat this year.  He was even marginally more cooperative.  One might think he’s growing up.  Or one might think the candy bribe was pretty powerful.

In any event, here’s a bunch of Pretty, Happy, Funny, and oh so Real!

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This remains one of my favorites, even if it didn’t fit in the card we chose. I love Princess’ exuberance (although I had NO idea she was doing that at the time), Sunshine’s sweet smile, Dino’s coy look, Trooper’s goofy look (because he was laughing), and the corgi photobomb.

That was picture #4.  My father-in-law wisely just kept snapping in hopes that one picture would come out with us all looking in one direction.

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Picture #24. Miss M: “Oh! Look! I see the plane! Do YOU see the plane, [Posey]? Mama, a plane!”  Posey Pie: “Whoooooa.”

Sunshine is ready to move on.  I only wish I HAD known Princess was doing that. The boys look fine. Corgi still photobombing. Time for a change of scene….

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LEAF PILE!  YAAAAAAA!

I wanted one of us all in the leaves, and one of me with our girls, and Haus Meister with our strapping lads. Too much to ask?

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Four out of five girlies. Not so bad. Come on, Sunshine!

But the fun of prancing in the leaves in full dress was just too much. Daddy had to sit in just so SHE would sit down.  And shout “CHEEEEESE!”

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I love that Sunshine girl.  She puts her heart into it.  Meanwhile, no clue why Princess is jumping up.  Miss M is still looking for planes, Posey is about over it, and Littlest is still along for the ride.

Littlest isn’t so little, if you notice.  There’s only about 4lbs difference between Posey and herself. She also just turned six months old. I am in denial that it’s already been half of a year since her quick entrance into our life.

Anyway, back to the photos.  The boys didn’t fare much better.  A truck lumbered down our street and completely distracted Trooper while it was in sight.  The other two young miscreants had no such excuse. Not one picture had all three of my little men looking at the camera.

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But I am pleased as punch that after cropping out our neighbor’s air conditioner unit, we have Family Photo 2014!

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Trooper had just yanked me backward into the leaves. What a stinker! Posey’s two-finger habit now captured, Miss M looking 75% more dainty than she normally appears, and we are all, generally, facing forward.

For us, SUCCESS! ;)

Yarn Along for the end of October

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Mellow greetings!  Please bear with me as I continue my search for a new background look to ye old blog.  I think I’ve changed it three times since the summer.  Ah well, it’s that time of year for Fall cleaning, and I’ve been repainting, so it’s just par for the course I guess. ;)

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Weird glowy aura effect, pumpkins look pale and dreadful…. wow, what a lousy project picture! Why am I even compelled to post this?

Meanwhile, the knitting. Oh me oh my, I’ve had to redo the yoke for Armas three times.  I think I’ve finally got it.  Now I’m treading uncharted waters… or rather, charted waters, because this is the first ever project I’ve done that has a chart but no line-by-line written instructions to translate my way safely through it.  I’ve found some tips from Ravelryers who have gone before me down this road, and I’m grateful for them.  However, I’m alternately confident and petrified about continuing!  But continue I will because 1) I haven’t found a sweater pattern for my husband that I liked better and 2) I have 16 balls of grey Icelandic wool yarn in my stash and if I use it up, I’ll have an excuse to buy more yarn!  Because as we all know:

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 Meanwhile, I have been doing some reading besides mulling through pre-Christmas magazines and catalogs, since those seem to come starting mid-October.  I read Hannah Fowler by Janice Holt Giles, and really enjoyed it.  Since Leila explained it admirably I’m linking you there.  Another gem of the fiction world I read cover-to-cover and back again (same with HF) was The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer.  It toppled The Reluctant Widow for my favorite Heyer novel. What a lark!

In between times I have actually done some serious reading and bought Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child.  It was written by a homeschooling mother of severely disabled twins and describes how a classical based education helped the children (now grown) and emphasizes why these people society deems useless still benefit from and indeed deserve the best education we can offer them, even if we are tailoring great art and fine music to a basic level.  Although we use a different style of homeschooling than the author, it was a breath of fresh air to read this book.  It reminded me again why we chose this road for Trooper (and Sunshine, too).

So there we have it for this week!

It’s good to be a boy….

….on a Fall afternoon….a week before Halloween….when school is done and Mom announces that THIS came in the mail today:

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The shopping list for the weekend now includes PVC pipe, some kind of foam, cardstock paper, metallic spray paint, oh, and duct tape.  A lot of duct tape. :)

There’s already a request for the follow-up book: The Knight Book: Warfare by Duct Tape that they hope they’ll find under the Christmas tree.

Unlike most requests, I’m sure that can be arranged.  They’ve inured me to enough of their quips and games and I’d much rather them keep busy creating their own costumes and accoutrements. :) Besides, these boys have five princesses to protect and defend (not that said princesses won’t lend a hand in the battle, mind). They can’t start too soon. :)

Of all the random things…

Because the latest homebrewed is about to be moved from secondary fermentation to the carbonation day, we were compelled to (gasp) go out and buy some beer.  That’s our cue to find the latest seasonal brews and yesterday Haus Meister happened upon this:

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“Peach Beer!” He tells me. “I think you’ll like it.”

“I bet I will,” I admit.  I like peach tea, peach jam, peach pie, and peaches.  So why not peach beer?

Then he took a bottle out of the box.

AAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

DEMON COON BEER!

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We looked all over the box for an explanation for the design.  None. Judging by images on Google it’s probably something for Hallowe’en.  What an incredibly random label.

Thank you, Dogfish Head.  I will now be referring to you as Demon Coon Beer for the foreseeable future.

A bittersweet tenth birthday

Some years ago I wondered just how the children would want to commemorate Jacob’s day. After all, the only one to have seen Jacob was the Trooper, who himself was only nine months old and probably has little memory of it, if any. But even as I thought and fretted, the Rascal had the answer.

“Let’s sing for him! Doesn’t he have a cake? You said it was his birthday…”

Thus the tradition of a little something to celebrate Jacob began. It fulfilled my hope that our sweet baby would be remembered by his brothers and sisters; that he would be recognized as part of our family even though he passed away before most of them were born.  It keeps the day from becoming overwhelmingly sad, as it would, if I had to keep the memory of him to myself.

It is a perfect way to affirm that every life is precious and worth celebrating.

Every life, no matter how brief.  And his was so brief.

Happy 10th birthday, Jacob Dominic. The hour we had to hold you was too short. We look forward to being with you in Heaven.

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