Quick Takes Friday, Two Days Late

What does it say about my life right now that I’m getting my Friday Quick Takes out two days late?

— 1 —

I would be justified in blaming Justified to justify my procrastination. You see, we got a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and thanks to Amazon Prime’s free streaming of hunky Timothy Oliphant, I have been staying up until one or later to watch two to three episodes every night. By the time I finally roll out of bed in the morning, I’ve wasted far too much time to be able to squeeze blogging into the mix. (BTW, if you want to try Amazon Prime yourself, please click on the link to the right. Thanks for your support! Wink!)

— 2 —

I so admire parents who are able to go to bed more than two hours before their children wake up Christmas morning. I’m going to try to do that next year. If you are one of the distinguished few, please tell me: What’s your secret?

— 3 —

I did learn one thing this Christmas. Never drink more than one peppermint martini on Christmas Eve. I don’t believe there’s a worse time for a hangover than Christmas Day, especially when you have young children. Plus, inebriation seriously slows any and all Santa Claus business.

— 4 —

Referring back to Quick Take Number 3 from last week, my boy that I thought grew up a little bit? Uh, no. I was wrong. Christmas night, on our way home from my parents’ house, guess what my little “man” said to us?

“How come you guys didn’t get us anything we wanted for Christmas?”

I’m pretty sure that, if it hadn’t been dark in the car, the steam rising from my head would have been a strong cue for him to drop the subject. Instead, he kept it up, and I have seriously considered donating every. last. toy. to charity or someone who can actually have a little appreciation.

— 5 —

I think the hard part for The Dude is that he’s always comparing himself – and his possessions – to those of others. We grown ups know that this is a recipe for failure and disappointment, but he’s a long way from getting that. He saw his cousins walk into the family Christmas celebration decked from head to toe in brand new Under Armor, toting their personal iPads. We can’t keep up with that, and I can’t say that I would, even if we could. Regardless, when he saw what they got, and compared it to what he got, he came up on the short end, yet again. I do feel sorry for the kid, but I also want to instill values in him that leave material possessions at the very bottom of the list of “what’s important.” So far, we’ve clearly missed the mark.

My poor, neglected children playing with their Rainbow Looms Christmas morning.
My poor, neglected children playing with their Rainbow Looms Christmas morning.
Boo posing with the girls' new frogs.  Don't worry, the boys each got a frog too.
Boo posing with the girls’ new frogs. Don’t worry, the boys each got a frog too.

— 6 —

Moving on… I do hate the fact that my birthday is the day after Christmas, but I’m beginning to realize that perhaps I should be grateful. By the 26th, all I want to do is go crawl in a hole and spend some time alone. My birthday is the one day of the year when I can say, “Honey, don’t bother buying me any presents. All I want is the day off,” then disappear from the house for eight hours with no complaints from either Ray or the children. Starbucks makes it extra wonderful with their free birthday drink. I did a little shopping – for me! – and then spent four hours at Starbucks finally writing that last scene of the book. Best birthday ever!

— 7 —

Favorite Rosary Thought for the Week: At confession last Saturday, my priest had beautiful words for me, exactly the words I needed to hear. He spoke of the invasion of the Holy Spirit… that allowing the Holy Spirit to completely invade our entire being is our ultimate spiritual goal. As I meditated on the Nativity this week, I thought of Joseph knocking on all those doors, and the one inn keeper who finally gave him a place in the stable. I thought that if a king had come knocking on the door, the inn keeper would have kicked people out to give him the best room, and that, in fact, he actually would have just cleared out the entire inn to make room for the king and his entourage. At Christmas, we talk about “making room” in our “inns” for Christ. What we really need to be doing is clearing out all else, to give our “inns” over completely to the King of Kings.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

 

 

Seven Quick Takes – Overcoming Christmas Baby Doldrums, Tree Pics, and a Reflection

— 1 —

I grew up as a “Christmas Baby”, having been born the day after Jesus (2000 or so years later, thank you very much).  Everyone always felt sorry for me, sure that my birthday must get overshadowed by Christmas.  Honestly, my parents did a fantastic job of making it special.  They never combined presents, never wrapped my birthday presents in Christmas paper, and always gave me a birthday dinner that was all my own.  The one year that Mom forgot about my birthday, I was a sophomore in college.  At some point on Christmas day, she realized her mistake.  To make up for it, she took me on a huge shopping spree, probably spending two times what she normally would have.  I was really totally OK with that.  Thanks again, Mom.

— 2 —

The Dude is a Christmas Baby too, only I fear his mom isn’t doing as good a job of things.  Money’s always tight at this time of year, and this year it’s especially so.  For his birthday, I craftily used sales and coupons, combined with a bit of re-gifting, to get gifts that were – mostly – on his list and that I thought he would – totally – enjoy.  I wrapped small gifts in separate boxes so he would get to open a lot of gifts, hoping that would disguise the fact that he wasn’t getting the value he would normally get. And we also gave him cash – wrapped up, too – so that he could combine his resources to get the super duper remote control car that he really wants.  He saw through my ploy and cheapness, and, while I’d love to say that I have a Christ-centered angel of a child who said, “Mommy, I understand that your love is more important than any gift you can give me,” I do not.  It was an ugly night, with a very unhappy child, a guilt-ridden mama, and a dad who was very ticked off by a total lack of gratitude and an over-active sense of entitlement.  There was yelling, there was crying, there were threats that all gifts would be returned.  This Christmas baby momma of a Christmas baby child felt like a total failure, on many levels.

— 3 —

All of that happened Tuesday night, the night before his birthday.  He went to bed having already identified it as “the worst birthday ever,” before the day had even started.  I went to bed dreading the day to come.  When I first woke him Wednesday morning, he was the same forlorn child I had cradled in my arms as he went to sleep.  Then something clicked in his brain and I suddenly saw a transformation in his eyes.  He had decided that this would be a good day.  He made a choice to overcome the events of the evening past, to be grateful for the presents he had received, and to make the most of the hand he’d been dealt.  Some small part of my little boy became a man in that moment.

— 4 —

Adding further to The Dude’s Christmas Baby doldrums, Boo woke up puking this morning.  Guess what was planned for tonight?  Yep.  Dude’s sleepover with seven friends to celebrate his tenth birthday has now been postponed, most likely until after the New Year.  That little part of my boy that became a man Wednesday morning reverted to childhood when he found out, but he did eventually square his shoulders and seemed to be doing well when I saw him at his class Christmas party this morning. Guilt-ridden mommy is back, however, even though there’s nothing I can do to change the situation.

— 5 —

On a happier note, here’s a pic of the kids exuberant tree all lit up last night.

kids tree 2

And here’s one to help you appreciate the added joy of the illuminated bannister.  Note the Lionel train track running around the base of the tree.  Truly a delightful tree for any child!

kids tree

— 6 —

Favorite Rosary thought for the week: When I meditate on the Visitation, I often think of Zechariah, and reading his story on Thursday this week leaves him fresh in my mind.  Having questioned the angel and shown a lack of faith, he is left speechless until the day he follows the angel’s direction to name the baby, “John.”  This busy time of year is an excellent time to think about savoring the silence, and the value of listening.  Days like today, I am grateful to have just a few moments of peace during which I remember to take a deep breath and say, “Thank you, Lord,” or, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

— 7 —

I loved the intentions from Morning Prayer on Monday, and thought I’d share:

Christ the Lord, Son of the living God, light from light, leads us into the light and reveals his holiness.  With confidence let us make our prayer:

Come, Lord Jesus!

Light that never fades, rise to dispel the mists about us,

– Awaken our faith from sleep.

Guard us from all harm today,

-May your glory fill us with joy.

Give us unfailing gentleness at all times,

– toward everyone we meet.

Come to create a new earth for us,

– where there will be justice and peace.

COME, LORD JESUS, COME!

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Three Tips to Enjoy the Final Days of Advent

Six days left in Advent. Six days left to prepare our hearts, spending time in scripture and prayer. Six days left to relish the beauty of this season, thanking God for the crisp, white snow, the cool, clean air, the blessings of family, and of course, basking in the warmth of the coming of the greatest gift, Jesus Christ.

Or, perhaps, six days left to run around like a crazy women, trying to find the perfect gift for every person on your list, worrying about how you’re going to fit your Christmas budget into the same monthly paycheck, and freaking out over whether the gifts will arrive from Amazon on time. Six days left to stay up till the wee hours of the morning to wrap presents, frantically fill out the last of the Christmas cards, bake a gazillion cookies, and roast chestnuts over an open fire.

Be honest, now. Which one is it for you? Which one has it been for the past three weeks? Which one do you choose for the next six days? Basking in the beauty, or freaking out because everything isn’t quite. beautiful. enough.?

Like most of us, I’ve had a little bit of both, but today I choose to bask, and I would like to choose that for the next six days, not to mention the twelve days of Christmas that will follow these six days, and the many days of ordinary time after that. For now, I’ll take one day, one moment at a time.

So, here are a few tips I’ve learned from the times I’ve gotten it right, and the times I’ve gotten it wrong.

1. Learn from Past Mistakes

Last week, I read last year’s post, Christmas Do-Overs, where I lamented the fact that I lost sight of Christ-mas on Christmas Day. Now, I’m trying to think of ways to ensure this Christmas Day is a major improvement. Thus, in addition to saying our Jesus prayer in the morning, I’ll be sure to play lots of Christian carols throughout the day (gotta make my iTunes playlist!), and I’m hoping to convince the family to take a quick detour to the adoration chapel before heading to my parents’ for Christmas dinner. Learning from last year’s mistakes, I will proactively make changes that will surely heighten our experience of Christ-mas.

Take a moment to reflect on Advents and Christmases past. As we enter into these final days of craziness, what can you do differently to heighten your spirituality and growth in Christ this season?

2. Pray Preemptively

You know the times that are going to stress you out. The times that are likely to lead to your head spinning around as you bark orders at your husband, yell at your kids, and generally pull your hair out trying to keep it together, all the while falling to pieces for God and your entire family to witness.

For me, it’s decorating the Christmas tree. Boxes everywhere, packing paper strewn across every surface of the living room, bulbs dropping like flies, and identical ornaments hanging from adjacent limbs. I mean, come on! How do these kids fail to understand the aesthetics of the Christmas tree???!!!!

While I love the idea of decorating the tree as a family, the reality has, in many Christmases past, been a bit closer to The Exorcist than The Walton Family Christmas.

This year and last, knowing the dangerous territory into which I was headed, I took a moment to pray beforehand. God, this should be a joyful time. Please help me to overlook the mess, to be patient and loving throughout this process. Please let it be joyful for every one of us.

Guess what? No freak outs. In fact, this year came complete with a cup of tea enjoyed while sitting back on the couch as I watched the children hang the bulbs, all the while offering up praise and thanksgiving for these awesome kids, our beautiful tree and warm home, and the many blessings of the season.

Take a moment now to identify those areas that will create stress for you. Pray for those moments now, pray before they begin, and make a point of praying throughout. Pray that you can make it through with the same trust, peace and calm of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph that first Advent and Christmas, and it will be provided for you. And, of course, be sure to offer up praise and thanksgiving for your answered prayers!

3. Identify areas where you can RELINQUISH CONTROL

Like many moms, I’m a bit of a control freak. I am beginning to realize, though, that my kids are getting old enough that I can let them do things for themselves, if only I am willing to relinquish control over exactly how those things should be done.

The kids desperately wanted to put a second Christmas tree up in the loft this year. Only problem? I did not have the time to do the work myself. So, I decided that I was going to let the kids run with it.

Imagine my surprise when, an hour after they started, I’d managed to vacuum and mop the floors and start dinner, while the kids had gone into the attic to find the tree base, erected the pole, complete with topper, and had a third of the limbs already beautifully fluffed! I assigned The Dude as the “Project Lead,” helped with limb fluffing and placement, as well as stringing the higher lights, but left the rest to the kids. I made suggestions. They didn’t take them. I said, “OK. It’s your tree. Have at it!” The result of the children’s work is a gloriously joyful kids tree, perfect in every way in their eyes, though we grown ups might not consider it so, especially the lights that graduate from colored, to red and green, to white. Nonetheless, it is the tree that makes me smile as I remember my children’s industriousness, ability to work together, and general can-do attitude. In fact, I think it’s my favorite Christmas tree ever.

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The Project Lead hard at work
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The Master Assistant and Chief Bannister Lighter
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The whole team doing their share

Take a look at your long list of to-do’s. What can others help you with? Where can you relinquish control? Whether it’s decorating trees, setting tables, or wrapping presents, pick one or two things, let go of your need for perfection, sit back, and enjoy the results. You may be pleasantly surprised.

What are your successes and foibles this Advent, and Advents and Christmases past? Please share in the comments section!

Seven Quick Takes – Speed Version

I’ve got twenty minutes before I have to leave to pick up the kids.  Can I do it?  Yes, I can.  If you ignore the typos.

— 1 —

Something you may not have known about me:  I was blond until I was five years old.  Then I decided that I wanted my haircut.  Mind you, all indications were that I was still a full-blown blondie.  After my stylist was done with me – giving me one of those totally cool feathered back do’s of the late seventies/early eighties – I walked out of the salon a total brunette.  My mom was accused by many of coloring my hair, but if we would have just waited a few months, we would have seen what was coming.  The good news?  My IQ jumped 80 points in one day.

— 2 —

I do still retain elements of blond, however, and this week has been particularly reminiscent.  Tuesday morning, I made coffee but forgot to add the coffee.  Imagine my delight when I poured hot water into my cup.  Wednesday, I left my purse under the pew after the kids’ Christmas show.  Yesterday I made a special trip to the store to have ingredients for meatloaf but never thought to defrost the hamburger until four o’clock.  Today?  Heaven forbid.  I went to Aldi and forgot to bring my bags.

— 3 —

Book update:  Going nowhere fast.  Nanowrimo was awesome inspiration and now I fear I’ve fizzled a bit.  Whereas I was averaging 1600 words per day, I’ve only managed to write 5211 from Dec. 1st to today.  I am, however, on the last scene – I think.  Unfortunately, the more time I take to actually think through the plot and character development, the more I realize that not knowing where I was going to end up when I started the book led to relationships that are totally “off” from what they should be.  Ergo, major edits in my future.  I’m revising my goals for edits and submission, thinking Feb/March might be more practical.

— 4 —

A couple of Boo’s cute words and phrases for posterity:

Missagongals = McDonalds

Pilaeno = piano

And then there are the pronouns:  “Me is silly!” “Her is at her’s house.” When I correct her “me”, she changes it to “Ine” instead of “I”.  So “Me is hungry” becomes “Ine is hungry.”  I think she’s a bright girl, but she does seem to be a bit slow on the uptake of linguistic subtleties.

— 5 —

Boo may be a mess, but my older two are turning into brilliant writers.  Author Mommy just couldn’t think of anything better to excel at.  Bonita wrote a story that is worthy of publication, if I do say so myself, and The Dude had a comment from his teacher last week, “You have an amazing way with words!” AHHHHHH!  Melt my heart!  He is my son!!!

— 6 —

As long as I’m bragging – Bear will be receiving a Spirit of Christ award in a special ceremony next week.  Not sure which one it will be – either imitating Christ’s service, his wisdom, or his leadership.  I’ll take any of the three.  Or all three, ’cause let’s face it, he really is an amazing kid. 🙂

— 7 —

Favorite Rosary thought for the week: Thinking of the Wedding at Cana.  Fr. Hollowell once told me to meditate on how Christ turned ordinary water into the most amazing wine, and that he could do the same for my marriage (which was struggling at the time).  Last night, I began to think about that in relation to the whole family unit – that Christ can take our ordinary family and make us into something really awesome, if we just open up and receive his grace and miraculous conversion.

OK.  I did it, and for the first time ever I’m posting with no edits.  I’m sure I’ll come back later to fix it up, but for now, I’m off to pick up my babies!  Happy St. Lucy Day!  Go see some lights!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

The Loss of Common Courtesies

It has struck me on several occasions lately that kids today (and I must include my own generation in this) are missing a few of Emily Post’s finer points.

Perhaps more than just a few.

I must confess that I have never actually read Ms. Post, and I’m pretty sure these points are not listed in her book.  But, if she were alive today, I believe that she would add them.

Here goes:

Stop (and Pray) for Funeral Processions

OK.  This one is just sad.  I am positively shocked when a funeral procession drives past and all the other cars just keep rollin’ on.  Are we seriously so busy these days that we can’t show our respect for the deceased by pulling to the side of the road and waiting for a funeral procession to go by?  Better yet, offer up a prayer as they drive past for the comfort of the family and the eternal rest of the departed soul.

Babysitters: Leaving Things Better than You Found Them

Before I started babysitting, my mother drilled it into my head that I should always leave my employers’ home looking better than I found it.  This meant that if the basement was covered in toys when I arrived, I picked them all up before I left.  If the sink was full of dirty dishes when the mom left, it was empty when she got home.  And certainly anything that I used or dirtied during my stay was cleaned, picked up and put away.  This, of course, included the children’s dishes, toys, clothes, etc.

Unfortunately, today’s generation of babysitters do not appear to have been taught this rule by their mothers.  Thus, my generation of moms must suffer through with babysitters who happily flounce out of our doors, our money in their fists, as we turn our exhausted eyes to yet another sink full of dirty dishes that we didn’t even create, all the while wondering why we are paying these girls five times what we were once paid, to do so much less.

Moms, let’s do better for the next generation of mothers.  Let’s teach our sons and daughters to adhere to the principles and work ethics which our own mothers taught us!

Attending Funerals or Visitations

Sorry to get back on the funeral topic again, but in the past few years I’ve attended a few funerals for friends whose parents have passed away.  I’ve been shocked at the lack of my contemporaries among the mourners.  In fact, in one case, I know for a fact that I was the only friend of the grieving daughter that actually bothered to show up.

I know we’re all busy, and I know that none of us like to attend a funeral.  I know that it’s awkward attending a funeral for a person that you don’t even know.  I know that we have kids, and have to find childcare for them in order to go to a solemn event.

I also know that the presence of a friend – someone who is simply there to show their love and support for you in your grief – means more in that moment to a grieving person than a thousand well wishes and promises of prayer.

So, next time someone you know loses a loved one, even if that person isn’t your BFF, and even if you’ve never met their loved one, err on the side of doing too much rather than too little.  You’ll be glad you did, and so will your friend.

 

Which ones am I missing?  Probably ones that I, myself, violate on a regular basis.  Please do me the favor of bringing them to my attention by leaving a comment