Category Archives: Advent

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.



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.

The Project Lead hard at work
The Master Assistant and Chief Bannister Lighter
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!

The Covenants Fulfilled and Christ is Born! Reflections for Christmas Eve and Day

Let’s face it, no matter how much you did to prepare, the next two days promise to be crazy.  So, the reflections are short, in recognition of the realities of life.  I pray that we will ponder these words of the Gospel throughout our busy days today, tomorrow, and every day to come!

Dec. 24 (Person – Jesus, Symbol – Manger)

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Read Luke 2:1-20

Reflection:  We started our Jesse Tree 24 days ago.  We read about how God created the world, Adam and Eve’s first sin, and God’s covenant promises to Abraham.  Those promises were land, a kingdom, and worldwide blessing.  This whole story that we’ve been reading for the past few weeks leads up to this point.  God has given us an everlasting kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven – and he has given us worldwide blessing, through Jesus Christ!

Just as Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart,” let us always remember in our hearts that God gave us Jesus Christ to save the world.

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Please help us to keep all these things in our hearts, so that they may guide our every thought, word, and action.

Bramantino - De aanbidding der herders
Bramantino – De aanbidding der herders, courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Dec. 25 (Person – Christ, Symbol – Chi Rho Symbol)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  John 3:16

John 1:1-18, 3:16

Reflection: Christ is born!  Hallelujah!

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, we thank you again for the greatest gift of all – your Son, Jesus Christ.  Sweet Jesus, we thank you for coming to us and for providing your great light in our darkness.  Please help us to always know, love, and serve you, so that, through your love, we may be a light shining in the darkness.  Christ is born!  Hallellujah!

My Advent Playlist

Here are a few of the songs that I’ve put on my Advent playlist:

Future of Forestry’s version of Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.  There’s something about the music that creates a sense of expectation. I find myself looking on the horizon for Jesus coming on a cloud.

Benedictines of St. Mary’s “Gabriel’s Message”.  I confess that when I first listened to samples of their CD, Advent at Ephesus, I felt that it was a bit too soprano for me.  But when I heard this song, I fell in love with it, and I like having at least one song on my playlist that was performed by these deeply spiritual women.  I’ll most likely add more next year.  The video below doesn’t include the song, but gives a lovely taste of their way of life.

I juxtaposed that song with Sting’s version of the same.  The video is a bit out there, but I can overlook that and just enjoy a modernized version of a beautiful song.

Charlotte Church’s “Ave Maria” from Dream a Dream.  The only thing that I don’t like about this song is that it isn’t long enough. I’d like it to go on for twenty minutes or so.  🙂

There are others, but since it’s the last day and a half of Advent I figure most people aren’t going to spend too much time or money downloading their playlist for next year!

Due to my technological idiocy, it took me a long time to create this playlist.  I finally got it together yesterday.  I hope that this post will save you the struggles I endured!

Paying Christ Homage – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 23

Wow!  Hard to believe Christmas is only two days away!  Our Advent season has truly been a wonderful time of preparation, and I am really looking forward to Christmas day.  This is especially wonderful since last year I was so stressed out and overwhelmed that I just wanted the season to be OVER.

We’ve done lots of wonderful things to celebrate Advent.  Things like putting up the tree on the first day of Advent and adding purple fabric swaths for the season’s liturgical color, but holding off on ornaments until Christmas Eve.  Or listening to beautiful Advent (not Christmas!) music – I’ll post a few later.  We’ve really enjoyed the Jesse tree, though I confess that I never did finish making all of the ornaments for that, so we are “a few ornaments short of a Jesse tree.”  We’ve done all of the reflections, though, even if we did fall behind and have to play makeup a time or two, and it’s been wonderful to have the time to sit and snuggle with the kids while setting the stage for Christ’s coming.

I hope you have had a wonderful Advent as well, and that you will be able to slow down from all the craziness and enjoy these last two days of preparing our hearts for Christ!

Dec. 23 (Person – Magi, Symbol – Star or Candle)

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Read Matt 2:1-20

Reflection:  These three wise men from afar saw this young child, with his mother, in a humble home.  They laid down flat on the floor, and “did him homage,” which means “to publicly show honor and respect.”  Even though these men were much older and came from rich lands, they were wise… and so they recognized the greatness of this tiny little baby.  What can we do today to show Jesus honor and respect – to pay him homage?

There are so many things we can do!  Going to Mass and being quiet and respectful, spending time in adoration, praying – especially praying the Rosary…  Let’s be sure that we give Jesus all honor and respect every day, and especially in these last few days leading up to our celebration of his birth!

Let’s pray:  Dear sweet Jesus, we are so excited that Christmas is only two days away!  Please help us to remember to always honor and respect you, and to remember that Christmas is all about Christ.

Clinging to God the Father – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 22

Well, friends, Jesus was right and the Mayans were wrong.  Surprise, surprise.

I awoke today – the first day of the rest of my life – with two wonderful epiphanies.  The first was, perhaps, not life-changing.  I was struck with an idea of how I could transform a gift that I’ve purchased for our dear family friends, taking it from “just another game that I hope they will play” to “a wonderful way to continue a great family tradition.”   I hope that they will be as excited as I am.  The second epiphany was an end to the writer’s block I was experiencing in regards to today’s reflection.  The first I hadn’t prayed about.  The second I had.  Thank you, God.

I knew there was a reason why I spent time in the blogosphere last night, and it turns out that it was to go to Little Catholic Bubble and see Fr. Barron’s thoughts on the Newtown tragedy, which you can watch here.  This provided the inspiration for today’s reflection:

Dec. 22 (Person – Joseph, Symbol – Carpenter’s square or hammer)

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt 1:21

Read Matt 1:18-25

Reflection:   God made the Holy Family complete by assigning Joseph as the adopted father of Jesus, and as protector of both Jesus and His mother, Mary.

Just as God gave the Holy Family a father and protector, he also gave his family on earth a father and protector – Himself, as God the Father.  God the Father will always look out for you and always love you.  You are his precious child.

Bad things will happen in life, just as they happened in the Bible.  We’ve read about the Joseph of the Old Testament being sold into slavery, about the Israelites spending four hundred years in miserable slavery in Egypt, where Pharaoh was killing each of their newborn sons.  We know that, later, the Israelites were forced from their promised land, and their cities destroyed.  The Bible does not pretend that bad things don’t happen.  But it teaches that, if we cling to God as our Rock, and to Jesus as our Savior, we will get through those difficult times.  Not on our own strength, but on the strength of God, our Father.

(Parents, if your children have experienced a loss, or if they are worried about the Newtown tragedy, you may choose to discuss these things in greater detail.)

Let us pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, you are my rock and my salvation, and your love endures forever.  When bad things happen – things that make me sad or worried – please help me to cling to you, my Father, and to Jesus, my Savior.  I know that, with you and Jesus, I will have peace, comfort, and joy.

Servants of God – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 21

Dec. 21 (Person – Mary, Symbol – White Lily)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Read Luke 1:26-38

Reflection:  Of all the people who ever lived – with the exception of Jesus, of course, who was both God and man – the Blessed Mother, Mary, is the one that we should look to for our example of how to live life.  Mary was created without sin. This means that she did not have the mark of sin that the rest of us were all born with, due to Adam and Eve’s first sin.  All her life, Mary loved God with all her heart, and never made a choice that wasn’t guided by this love.

So it makes sense to remember everything Mary said in the Bible, and to live by her words.  In today’s reading, she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Do you know what it means to be a handmaid?  (pause for answers)  A handmaid is a female servant, who will do whatever job is asked of her.   Mary is God’s servant, willing to do whatever He asks her to do.  That’s exactly what each of us is called to do!  To be a servant of God, willing to do anything he asks.   What are some things that God might ask you to do?  (to love each other, to help around the house, to give to people who have less, to be kind, pray, read the Bible, etc)  Yes!  All of these are wonderful answers, and, as servants of God, we should always try to do these things!

Do you know when you are happiest in life?  It’s when you are doing what God asked you to do!  As you get older, God will also call you to be either single, married or a priest or religious sister.  It will be very important for you to listen to that call and follow it.  Not only will you serve God and the world as God wants you to serve, you will also be happy, because you’ve answered God’s call!

Let’s pray: Dear God, I know that I am happiest when I am serving you; please help me to always be your servant.  Help me to hear your call for my life, whether it be married or single life, the priesthood or religious life.  I am your servant.  May it be done to me according to your word.

Repentance and Reconciliation – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 20

Dec. 20 (Person – John the Baptist, Symbol – Scallop Shell)

“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Read: Luke 1:57-80; Matt 3:1-12

Baciccio, “The Preaching of St. John the Baptist” Courtesy of Web Gallery of Art

Reflection: John the Baptist told the people to “repent” in order to prepare for Christ’s coming.  Do you know what it means to repent?  To “repent” means to recognize our sins (our wrong choices), to tell God that we are sorry, and to ask Him to forgive us.

Remember when we talked about Adam and Eve?  We talked about how our sins separate us from God and prevent us from having a close relationship with Him.   We want to have the closest relationship with Him that we possibly can, right?   In fact, we want Jesus to be our best friend!   Our friendship with Him will always be strongest when we try not to sin.  When we do sin, it is important that we tell God we are sorry, ask Him to forgive us, and ask for His help to avoid sinning again.

As Catholics, we know that the season of Advent is an important time to do exactly as John the Baptist taught – to repent and make our hearts ready for Christ’s coming.   For those of us who are old enough, this is a very important time to participate in Reconciliation.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we speak to a priest, who is “in persona Christi,” which means that, in that moment, he becomes Christ for us, so that the priest can do for us what only Christ can do – forgive our sins.  This is such a wonderful sacrament!  Sometimes it is a little scary to tell our sins to another person, but then the priest says the words of absolution, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”   With those words, we are restored to our close friendship with Jesus, and it feels fantastic!  (Parents, share your own feelings after receiving Reconciliation.  Mine go something like this: “My heart soars with joy, and I feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders!”  Invite older children to share their experiences as well.)

You may not be old enough to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but all of us can repent.  Let’s think quietly for a moment about things we might have done that made God unhappy and hurt our friendship with Jesus.

Let’s pray: My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.  In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.  I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid the things which lead me to sin.  Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  In His name, my God, have mercy.

Now, we promised to do penance, right?  That means to perform a prayer or good act to show that we are sorry for our sins.   Let’s pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for our penance…

Christ in Us – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 19

December 19 (Person – Elizabeth, Symbol – Mother and Child)

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:42, 45

Read Luke 1:39-56

Reflection:  When she heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She knew that Mary was the Mother of God, and that Mary’s child was the long-awaited Son of God.  She greeted Mary with the love and welcome that are fitting to someone who has God within her.

Through our baptism, each of us has the Holy Spirit within us.  When we let it, the Holy Spirit will guide us to love others and to always do what God wants us to do.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit that comes from the love of God and Christ, so when we received the Holy Spirit in baptism, we also received God and Christ.  This means that each of us has Christ inside of us!  But sometimes we forget that Christ is inside of us, and that He’s inside every baptized person around us.

Today, every time you look at a person, try to think, “He has Jesus inside of him.  I want to love him like I love Jesus.”  Of course, change that to she’s and her’s for a girl!  Let’s start by saying it for each person in the family: “Daddy has Jesus inside of him.  I want to love him like I love Jesus. Help me, Holy Spirit!” (Continue through each family member.  Larger families may choose to group two members at a time!)

Let’s pray:  Dear Holy Spirit, I know that you live inside of me and inside every baptized person.  Please help me to remember that Christ is inside every person, and to love them like I love Jesus, and like Jesus loves me.

The Value of Listening – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 18

First, I must give a shout out to my oldest “baby”, Dude, whose ninth birthday is today!  Happy birthday, buddy!

It’s always amazing to me how the lessons we teach our children are so often lessons we need to learn ourselves.  Listening is not my strong suit, and I am looking forward to accepting my own challenge today, to “shut up and listen” for an hour.

This morning I will be having tea with a friend who is a great listener.  I always feel at the end of our meetings that I have totally commandeered the conversation, barely letting her get a word in edge wise.  She is a woman of great faith, wisdom, and peace, so I know I could learn a lot if I would just shut my mouth and encourage her to speak.  Of course, I will achieve this only through the grace of God, but with God all things – even Stephanie shutting up and listening – are possible! 🙂

Dec. 18 (Person – Zechariah, Symbol – Pencil and Tablet)

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.  He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant…” Luke 1:68-69

Read Luke 1:5-25, 1:57-80

Zechariah’s story is a great lesson in the value listening.  At first, when the angel came to him, Zechariah was quick to speak, and his words showed a lack of trust in God’s ability to do anything.  After that, he was unable to speak for over nine months.  Instead of talking, he listened.  He listened to what others said to him, unable to make a quick response with his own opinion and thoughts.  Since Mary came to stay with them for three months, he must have listened to many, many conversations between Mary and Elizabeth.  Just imagine what he must have heard between two righteous women, one of them the Mother of God!

We can see that Zechariah did learn a lot through listening, and that he grew in his belief in God during those nine months.  When his mouth was re-opened, the first words out of it were, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel!”

How many ears do you have?  How many mouths do you have?  God, in his perfect wisdom, did this for a reason!  We are meant to listen more than we speak!  When we listen, without busily trying to decide what we are going to say in response, we have an opportunity to learn from what others are saying.  When we are quick to speak, we lose that learning opportunity.  When we listen, we learn about the people around us – their thoughts and feelings, what’s going on in their lives, what makes them happy or sad… Through this listening and learning, we are better able to understand why they do the things they do and what their needs and wants are, and we are better able to serve them as Christ wants us to serve others.

For one hour today (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this late), try to listen intently to what others have to say.  Speak only when you absolutely have to.  Then, discuss with your family what you learned through listening.