Christmas Time is HERE!!

We’re all about celebrating the Christmas season, not the Christmas shopping season to loosely quote a friend’s late mother.

But we opened some presents early. I’ll go ahead and apologize right now for not having very many pictures it just didn’t happen.

Sunday, December 21st, Jeff’s dad and step-mom came over. They traveled to Maryland to spend the holidays with Jeff’s half-brother and his new wife who was not able to travel because of her job in their first married Christmas. So, they brought presents over to exchange and for dinner. The boys both got science kits, Joseph for growing crystals and William got a bio-dome. Shelby got a Princess Tiana costume. Wouldn’t you know, I did get some pics of her in costume.

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Tuesday, December 23rd, I woke up at 3 AM feeling awful. My planned day at work did not happen as I came down with a stomach flu and instead spent the whole day in bed and in the bathroom. Thankfully, it was only 24 hours and I was the only victim. Since the kids had been out of school since Thursday, I must have picked up the virus at work on Monday.

Wednesday I was recovering but we had a Christmas tree to put up and decorate. It took all day because I kept having to take breaks. Because I was so soon off my virus, we initially planned for Christmas Day mass. But when William had a fever and Joseph complained of terrible stomach pains (oh, he got diagnosed with walking pneumonia on Sunday and was on antibiotics), so we decided not to contaminate the parish.

Thursday morning the kids opened up their gifts and were pleasantly surprised. The boys had gotten one of their gifts early, the full version of Minecraft which they borrow my laptop to play. William got an Enderman Minecraft plush toy and a Minecraft miniature crafting table with “Steve” character. Joseph got a Minecraft Zombie Creeper plush toy, a watch and a headset to use to make videos of his gaming. Both boys also got fluffy cuddle pillows. Joseph’s was Lego Movie and William’s was Mario Brothers. Shelby got some fun socks, my Little Ponies, and toiletries (she likes organizing them, so we got her a gift set). They each got movies in their stockings too. Joseph got How to Train Your Dragon 2, William got some episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from a 90s series, and Shelby got the first two seasons of Spongebob Squarepants. They each got some candy too. I got a Keurig, winter coat, robe & slippers, and a new cookie sheet. I had given Jeff a day with friends where he didn’t have to get a babysitter a few weeks before and he got several gifts from students. We spent a lot of the day snuggling and watching movies.


I did manage to make fudge (which marked the beginning and end of my holiday baking) and we enjoyed a lasagna dinner.

Friday I worked for the first time since Monday. We were surprisingly busy at work which made the time go by much faster than it normally would have. I was exhausted by the time I got home and went to bed very early. But we did get some gifts. My great-aunt and great-uncle included $10 in their Christmas card that arrived that day and my grandparents sent a $50 gift card.

This morning I got up early to clean up as while I went to bed early, and get ready because my parents came to visit today. They brought Shelby school uniforms, an Ariel doll, and pajamas. Joseph also got pajamas, a telescope, and  binoculars. William got a solar system projector, pajamas, and binoculars. We went to lunch at Highway 55 and afterward, the boys and I went with my parents to Wal-Mart. The boys each got a Lego set. Joseph got a Star Wars Interceptor while William got Cloud Cuckoo Land from Lego Movie. Jeff got a Sears gift card. I got pajamas, a Mary Engelbreit day calendar, a Marian retreat book, and a cross. I got some K-Cups and a copy of Holiday Inn. After an afternoon of haircuts (for Joseph) and lego building, my parents headed home.

And we aren’t done yet, we will head to my parents’ home New Year’s Day to visit with my mother’s parents.

Obviously with our illnesses it hasn’t been an easy go of it. In addition, I’ve lost my debit card and am waiting on a replacement. All minor annoyances to be sure. And this morning, we received the news of Courtney Lenaburg’s triumphant return home to God. We are saddened but also joyful knowing that she is in the arms of Jesus now.


Christmas Favorites Part 1

Because I may not be able to finish all of this in one post, it tentatively stands as part 1:

Favorite Christmas Carols

1. My number 1 favorite Christmas carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” And it’s only ever sung at every single parish I’ve ever been a member of at Midnight mass. Because, you know, that’s when the angel sang it. So I rarely hear it at mass, as Midnight mass has not been part of my routine for many, many years around here. But, I still love it. To me, it’s the ultimate praise song this time of year. “Glory to the newborn king.” Indeed.

2. My number 2 is one I’ve never heard at any mass ever, but my mom sings it at her parish in the choir: “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” I just love how gentle the song is in melody and how beautiful the imagery is, “angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold” is a very specific picture in my mind.

3. Okay, so the rest of these are in no particular order but next up is “Angels We Have Heard On High.” I will admit when I was a child it was because of “Glo———–ria in excelcis deo.” It also has jubilee in it which is one of my favorite words ever and I like the idea of the mountains singing, even if in echo.

4. “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” because I like tidings of comfort and joy.

5. “What Child is This” I think I initially liked that it was the same tune as “Greensleeves.” It seemed to make it more romantic. I definitely can visualize a Raphaelite virgin and child.

6. “Joy To the World” I can’t remember why I initially liked this song, although this interpretation as a child definitely sticks out in my mind.

What that version did for me, that no other version ever did before was emphasize two things: that Christ came to save ALL of us. First the Jews, then the Gentiles, but ALL of us. The art as well as how it starts with an organ and goes into steel drums and harmonica really spoke to how different we all are and yet, well, Christ loves us all and was born of a woman so we all might live. In addition, there is the repetition of “Let every heart, prepare Him room” several times. Every heart, because again, He came, died and rose again for all of us. That repetition of the word “joy.” Only found in Him and through Him. So, I would say this particular version unpacked this song for me at a very young age in a whole new way. Also, it was a BSF children’s program hymn last year and it’s William’s favorite now.

7. “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Which, in a nod to my TLM peeps, is so much prettier as “Adeste Fidelis.”

I’m specifically leaving off this list “Silent Night.” Because, a beautiful hymn, for me it is the most haunting and no version I have ever heard of it has ever matched the one sung in 2012 as the cold open for Saturday Night Live by the New York City Children’s Chorus a capella in honor and remembrance of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Unfortunately, it would appear there is no more video of this moment on the internet. The shootings happened on Friday and at 11:30 pm Saturday night, Lorne Michaels had produced what I consider to be all that could be said about the horror and the ensuing pain and fall-out.  For me, at least still now, that song has become intertwined with images of a special needs aid trying to surround the body of the little boy with autism she shadowed, the young teacher trying to shield her students, the school psychologist who ran toward the shooter when others ran away, the teacher huddled with her students telling them she loved them and that the good guys were going to come save them, the teacher who refused to allow a police officer into her classroom until he slid his badge under the door, the parents waiting for their children outside the school, and then, the funerals. Oh the funerals. Surely some good has come of this tragedy, but as I get ready to go to my kids’ school for parties today, it weighs heavily on my mind. And I doubt I’ll be able to hear “Silent Night” anytime soon without crying.

Moving on the perfect segue from that to the next segment is the same children’s chorus on that same SNL episode with Paul McCartney.

Some of my favorite christmas songs, which are in no particular order but numbered for sanity’s sake:

1. “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney which, I know is corny and synthesized but I love it so there.

2. “Carol of the Bells.” I have a special affinity for this version (featured in the same tv special as “Joy to the World” above)

complete with Hunchback of Notre Dame references. And then there is this version which I danced to in my middle school dance company as a “dancing doll” in a theater version of “The Little Match Girl.”

3. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. The girl who chased a guy all year and it just never happened, only to meet up with his Christmas Eve when they both forgot cranberry sauce for their solitary Christmas meals. It could happen.

4. “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time At All” by Band Aid. The original that Sir Bob Geldof created. Particularly Bono’s indictment of first world privilege, “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you.” If you feel uncomfortable by that statement, you should. And then there is this line, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.”

5. “Snoopy’s Christmas” by the Royal Guardsmen Snoopy and the Red Baron are at it again, but when Snoopy is taken down behind enemy lines, it’s not to die, it’s to stop the war for one minute and see his opponent as human, in the spirit of Christmas.

6. “Bellau Wood” by Garth Brooks Set in the foxholes and trench warfare of the world wars. An American solider hears the quiet early hours of Christmas Day, a German soldier singing “Silent Night” although the words sounded different, the men sing together and the GI begins to think “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear.” Of course like Snoopy and the Red Baron, they would fight each other again soon. But for a moment they didn’t have to.

7. “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” by Bob Rivers. Classic, because all of these can be and often are, true pains of this time of year.

8. “White Christmas” the Bing Crosby version. I’ve never had one but darn, doesn’t it sound romantic?

Well, that wraps up this list…stay tuned for more!

Patron for 2015

So, 2014 I got the most amazing paton on my first go…St Jerome. Because of course God would give me the a saint who championed the study of scripture.

I decided to be pre-emptive in choosing my patron for 2015, by going to Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Name Generator before Christmas Day. So, here is my first result:

St. Damian

Feast: September 26

Patronage: Against Blindness; Against Hernias; Against Pestilence; Apothecaries; Barbers; Blind People; Chemical Manufacturers; Hairdressers; Hernia Patients; Midwives; Physicians; Pharmacists; Relief from Pestilence; Surgeons

That silence I’m hearing is me not understanding the Holy Spirit, because I prayed hard on this. God, I really don’t need or want to go blind, have a hernia or endure pestilence. I’m not a chemical manufacturer, hairdresser, midwife, doctor, pharmacist or surgeon. So I opened the tab to learn more. The moneyless, the silverless. Yep, sounds a lot like me. Tortured and beheaded? I hope…not so much.

However, something told me to go for 2.

St. Anthony the Abbot

Feast: January 17

Patronage: Against Skin Diseases; Amputees; Animals; Butchers; Domestic Animals; Epileptics; Graveyards; Hermits; Monks

Well, still hoping for no skin disease, amputation or epilepsy. Although I’d make an awesome hermit, but that’s obviously not what God had intended for me as I have three children with zero sense of boundaries or privacy. Read a little more and although I like the guy, not entirely sure about this one either.

Do I hear a call for 3?

St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi

Feast: May 25

Patronage: Against Bodily Ills; Against Sexual Temptation; Sick People

Okay, I feel a little more connected here because I was baptized at St Magdalen’s church (in December 35 years ago…). But, I think God is trying to tell me that maybe 2015 isn’t going to be our healthiest year. Or maybe not my healthiest year. Or maybe we will be getting protection from these things?

Seriously, I’m not complaining, but I had to try just one more time.

St. Martin of Tours

Feast: November 11

Patronage: Against Alcoholism; Against Poverty; Beggars; Equestrians; Hotel-Keepers; Reformed Alcoholics; Soldiers; Tailors; Wine Makers

Stop laughing. His feast day is my parents’ wedding anniversary, he was Jennifer Fulwiler’s patron for 2014. Against poverty, always a good thing. Wine makers…so I won’t be running out of wine. In the event I have any of the things my other patrons are going to protect me from, I’ll need wine.

Finally, I can’t end on an odd number SOOOOOO….

St. Peter the Apostle

Feast: June 29

Patronage: Against Feet Problems; Against Fever; Bakers; Bridge Builders; Butchers; Fishermen; Locksmiths; Longevity; Masons; Papacy; Ship Builders; Watch Makers

BOOM! YES!!! After Jesus, my favorite person in the Bible. What did Jesus tell Peter, in the Gospel of John? “Feed my sheep.” And with my nudge toward being a catechist as well as educating my own children more in Catechism. YES, HOLY SPIRIT, YES!!! Oh, and I developed plantar fascitis this past year in addition to my achilles tendon issue, so against feet problems, right up my alley. Longevity, that sounds like a winner too. Bakers, hmmm. I like baked goods, meat and fish. Kind of hoping I don’t get locked out of or in anything that I may need a locksmith but you know… And of course, this would be my five for five on Pope Francis’ 78th birthday. I am hoping to have at least half his health and energy at that age.

So I’m keeping them, all of them. Yes, I have five patrons for 2015 (which also ends in a five). But I’m keeping St Peter as my main patron. So, St Peter, St Mary Magdalen, St Martin of Tours, St Anthony the Abbott, and St Damian, pray for all of us, but especially for me.

What I’ve learned about being a bridge vs being a wall from Yusuf/Cat Stevens

This past Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning there was a profile of the musician Yusuf/Cat Stevens.

While a long time fan of his music, his beliefs and “politics” were a bit more puzzling to me. But after watching this recent profile and hearing about his describing himself as a bridge, I realized he still has a lot to teach me.

When someone confronts us about deeply held beliefs: religious, political or otherwise, we have a choice. We can be a bridge or we can be a wall. For many years after converting to Islam and changing his name to Yusuf Islam, Yusuf/Cat was a wall. He rejected everything of his past music career despite the advice of an imam to continue to do it only without all the trappings of the “rock and roll lifestyle.” He quickly became a pariah to many former fans of his music. While he had the opportunity of a lifetime to enlighten people, instead, he became a wall that blocked many fans from understanding the radical life change he had undergone.

I realized how often defensive posturing on my or anyone’s part when someone challenges us on religious doctrine or history or tradition comes off as being a wall. It breaks down any and/or all communication. The person asking us questions, no matter how confrontational they are being asked or how inflammatory or wrong their statements may be, is going to close their mind off and shut down and nothing is gained on either side. However, we have the opportunity to enlighten and educate, if we determine ourselves to be a bridge.

And this extends to all areas of our lives. I can think in my own life about autism. I can educate and promote acceptance. Or I can be ugly and reactive and make people withdraw even further from me and my child and form wrong-headed opinions about autism, my child’s abilities and myself.

God calls all of us to be bridges, not walls. He calls all of us to bring others to our faith and to teach others. Sometimes it takes a painful period of being a wall for us to realize that we are not going to win any friends or converts that way. As I watched Yusuf/Cat Stevens perform in the piece, I realized there are people in that audience who rejected him in the 80s when he made statements regarding the fatwa issued for Salman Rushdie, who may have turned their records in to be steam-rolled as happened at that time. There also may have been people in that audience who as Muslims may have previously rejected the music of Cat Stevens. He was a bridge for both sets of people. And I realized I have a lot of work to do before I can be an effective bridge for Jesus, for autism, for the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves (the disabled, the unborn, the marginalized).

I realized that for many people of many faiths, Pope Francis is the bridge into Catholicism they never found in a neighbor, local parish, family member, priest or other attachment. And he is trying to encourage his flock to be bridges. Not to abandon doctrine. Not to change church teaching but to reach out, to build the bridges that will reunite Christians and all peoples.

We can all learn from these people seeking to be bridges in our midst and seek to become bridges ourselves.

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent Gratitude Challenge

87. A child who will tolerate medicated eye drops

88. A boss who is understanding when my kids are sick…even though she doesn’t have to be

89. A friend who is in sync spiritually right now

90. A teacher who cares enough to write a note about my child’s health

91. The Blessed is She South Region Group on facebook

92. Breathing treatments and nebulizers and inhalers

93. Father Barron’s reflection for today

94. A child who loves pasta

95. All my mid-season show finales (but how will I wait til January to find out what happens next?!)

96. A caring bus driver for my kids

97. Great blogs to read for inspiration and encouragement

98. Friends who just “get it” when I need someone like that

99. Extra jobs for my husband

100. Blogging more!

What it means to be part of a liturgical parish

Until we joined our current parish over the summer, I had never gone to a truly liturgical parish. I had definitely had priests who were liturgists before, absolutely, but I would not have considered the parishes they were assigned to as liturgical.

For an entire parish to be considered liturgical (from my lay-person’s standpoint) all the ministries must be united in their liturgical-ness. I know that’s not a word, forgive me.

In my previous parishes, while priests were often very liturgical, I found that the music ministries, faith formation,  and other ministries severely lacking. So what is at my new parish that I’ve never had before:

1. The priest calling out ALL the saints’ feast days at mass

2. The entrance and communion antiphons sung at every mass.

3. A section of the bulletin dedicated to teaching the laity about the particular liturgical season we are in.

4. Liturgical training in the faith formation program frequently throughout the year

5. Encouragement in reading the Bible and studying it at every level (okay, so technically not liturgical, but it REALLY helps)

And that’s a small slice. Growing up, I was blessed my mother had a Catholic education where she learned something of liturgy and had the desire to learn more as an adult. Never once in faith formation or in the bulletin did I ever see anything about why the priests’ vestments were purple or rose during Advent. I never heard the term “Gaudete” or understood why we broke from the purple into the pink suddenly at the third week. And those are small things.

My children having liturgical training is amazing because it creates an environment where they aren’t afraid to ask questions or are expected to blindly just trust “this is what it is so be it.”

Our parish music minister is also designated as a liturgist and it makes so much difference. He doesn’t allow for dogmatically ambiguous hymns to be contained inside the sacrifice of the mass. He enjoys teaching those whose formation was less than ideal and for encouraging all others.

And this is at a parish that only offers Novus Ordo. It was amazing to make my Advent wreath this year with a kid who remembered what each candle “meant.” It was refreshing to hear my five-year-old tell someone who asked if we had decorated yet for Christmas, “Not yet, we celebrate the Christmas season, not the Christmas shopping season!” The fact that they know and understand so much more has made all the difference.

To be honest, before we switched parishes, I had no idea what we were missing. And I am so eternally grateful God led us to where we are now. It is beautiful to see and know the difference and see what that difference in blossoming into in our family.

Second Sunday of Advent Gratitude Challenge

59. The quiet December morning drive to Mass

60. Excellent homilies

61. Making a Polar Express boxcar with my boy

62. Excellent classic Christmas movies

63. Huge boxes of Clementines

64. Lighting the second candle

65. Cozy family movie days

66. leaves dancing in the blustery outdoors

67. great customer service

68. hearty winter meals

69. snuggly warm beds.

70. keeping ahead of the laundry

71. little boy dimples