Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Statue of the Holy Family for Dad and Mom

Even though many of my siblings were not able to travel home for Christmas this year - it ended up just being three of my brothers and I out of the twelve of us, unlike last year when nine of us were together - I was still able to coordinate a special gift to give our parents when everyone came over on Christmas Eve! It was so much fun to plan and visit with all my brothers and sisters, currently spread out from Hawaii all the way to Australia, in a private group message on Facebook. It's been way too long since we've all been together!

With the health challenges my mom is currently facing it was so nice to surprise her and Dad with a special gift - an outdoor statue of the Holy Family for our own parents who have sacrificed so much for us all over the years.

Prayer for Parents 

Infinitely good God, Thou who hast imparted to me through my father and mother, my maintenance, a Christian education, and so many other benefits, I thank Thee for Thy bounty. Grant me the grace to show them the obedience that I owe them, sincere love, and great reverence. Never permit that they should suffer chagrin and trouble through my fault; but keep and guide me in the way of Thy fear and Commandments, as I have been taught. Reward them richly for all the good they have done me. Be their protector in danger, their helper in every care and anxiety. Grant them long life, good health, and a blessed eternity. Amen. 

A Few Pictures From Instagram & Car Seat Update

December 23, 2015: Our bank wasn't sure what to think of the grocery "shopping spree" I went on last night to Costco, Natural Grocers, and finally Trader Joe's. It took me 30 minutes (9-9:30pm, they close at 9) on the phone with the fraud department to verify that it really was me using the temporary debit card (my only payment option at the moment) which I was issued on Monday, after my purse was stolen Saturday night. The employees at TJ's were so kind, patient, and understanding. Then, as I was about to walk out the door, they tucked a bright and cheerful bouquet of flowers into my basket as a little gift! #ilovetraderjoes

We are still working on getting everything straightened out. It's been such a mess. I kept way too much in that purse... We were finally able to pick up the car from the glass shop on Christmas Eve and I ended up having a little meltdown after cutting my hand on some glass. They said they "shop vac'd" what they could and I needed to clean up the rest... I took it to the dealership where I purchased it this past summer and they were so great. The service department pulled some of their detail guys off their current work projects and had them use compressed air to clean up some of the glass and they also pressure washed all the mats. I'll need to schedule an appt with a body shop to get the rest of the glass out of the door - you can hear it every time it gets shut. Sean worked on it some more yesterday (finding even more glass!) and installed our new carseats for the little ones. I'm still working on a detailed list for the insurance claim, but we're getting there!

Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts and advice on child car seats! It was such a huge help to be able to read through all your comments and narrow down the best choices for our family. We still had a tough time deciding but ended up ordering two Diono Radian R100 Convertible Booster Seats in Shadow for our four and six year old. They were the least expensive option in the Diono line - we saved well over a $100 by going with this model instead of the most highly recommended RXT, but we don't need the rear facing option any longer, so these made the most sense for us at this stage. They will be able to use these until they have completely outgrown carseats and boosters! Rose is especially excited to finally be able to unbuckle herself - something that was so frustrating for her in her old car seat. 

December 26, 2015: I received such thoughtful gifts this year, including a few to replace some of the items that were in my purse when it was stolen last weekend... New makeup from my brother & sister-in-law, new pearl earrings from my husband, and a gorgeous new chapel veil from Robin Nest Lane!

"Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us.… Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives." - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Little Request for Prayers & Car Seat Advice...

A picture from Bud's 4th Birthday Saturday night, posted to Instagram on Sunday:
Note to self: Next time DO NOT leave purse in car during high school hockey game, especially after getting paid for the month... Added to wish list: New drivers license, bank account, credit cards, replace shattered car window, new car seats, purse, wallet, chapel veils, favorite rosary, makeup, sunglasses, camera lens, and so much more... #workingondetachment #tryingnottoletitstealmyjoy

In addition to some last minute Christmas shopping (a little hard to do with all my credit cards cancelled... Thankfully most of it was completed before Advent while I was putting together the list of Christmas Gift Ideas!), writing Christmas Cards (might not happen now this year, at least not before Christmas), and mailing gifts to the rest of our Godchildren, there was so much I was hoping to blog about - two fun birthdays, more on the O Antiphons (the treats and chocolates have been a hit!), last minute Christmas preparations, and that post about the books on the boys' bookshelf that I started last year (you can find the girls books here) - but it is going to have to wait for now...

Instead I spent yesterday canceling our bank account and credit cards and itemizing the long list of things I had in my purse. My husband has been reminding me that my purse is NOT intended to be used as a safe or a suitcase! ;) My husband is right, I live out of that thing, especially lately with the boys' school and sports schedule! It is really weird to not have a purse anymore... Today we spent the morning at the DMV and bank, and are now waiting for a call to schedule the Suburban's window replacement and working with our home owner's insurance again - we are still recovering from a power surge last month that did lots of damage at home including killing the dryer

It's been such a huge hassle, but I keep reminding myself that it could have been so much worse... My family wasn't hurt and, even though some of the things I lost were special and not easily replaced, they are just things. I had been especially worried that my planner was in my purse, with our full schedule listed for the next few months, but thankfully I had forgotten to put it back when I took it out on Friday. (Thank you, Guardian Angel!) Nevertheless I did want to ask you to offer a little prayer for our family's safety and peace of mind.

One of the next things I need to do, now that we have access to our bank funds again, is purchase new car seats for our two youngest who just turned six and four this past week. It's been over four years since we have even looked at carseats and I was hoping some of you might have some suggestions/recommendations for us. The two carseats we have now were both gifts: a Britax (I'm not sure if it's the Roundabout or the Marathon and (I think) a pink Graco 3-in-1, both older versions of course.  I'm going to vacuum off the glass and look a little closer for the model numbers in the morning.

My question... If you had to go buy two new carseats with insurance to help cover the cost (they will pay the replacement value on new versions of the brands/models we have, we pay our deductibles and any excess if I choose different versions on all the items that were stolen) what would you choose?  I'm so tired right now and would love some help deciding if anyone has a favorite to suggest. Thank you in advance!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Great O Antiphons, The Golden Nights

Ever since our oldest children were very little, we have been implementing an old monastic custom in our home by providing special treats, representing each of the "O Antiphons" on the days leading up to Christmas. The O Antiphon prayers begin on December 17th and end on the 23rd, which is the last Vespers of Advent, since the evening prayer on the 24th is the Vigil of Christmas.
The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
Each night, following our family rosary, we pray the O Antiphon for the day, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which was inspired by this ancient tradition, and then give the children a special treat.

The "treats" have varied from year to year. Some years it has been little gifts or activities for the family, some years it is all food related, and some years it is a mix of both, depending on our schedule and budget. Sometimes the treats are a bit of a stretch, but my goal is try and find gifts that will either help increase our faith (Catechism books, holy family, saints, prayer, etc) or encourage family time (games, puzzles, going to look at Christmas lights, etc). You can find some of our past O Antiphon treats by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.

This afternoon the girls and I also made some simple candies for each day. I posted more pictures along with all the details here: O Antiphon Chocolate Coins

Our family loves this tradition. It is such a fun way to teach the children about these beautiful prayers of the church and also increase their excitement as Christmas gets closer.  Oh, and since we have seven children now, they each get to unwrap one of the gifts!

In addition to the Chocolate Coins, here is the list of this year's treats for the O Antiphons, the Golden Nights:

.: December 17th :.
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

O Sapientia (O Wisdom) - A Pictorial Catechism

Since the symbol for wisdom is a book, I usually choose a new Catholic book for our family.

This year I ordered A Pictorial Catechism, a brand new release from St. Augustine Academy Press!

"Despite its object “to inculcate the doctrines of Romanism” and its hearty recommendation by Cardinal Wiseman, even the London Art Journal in May 1863--amidst sidehand comments that its texts “differ from those in our authorized Bible”--saw fit to recommend this Pictorial Catechism for its “One hundred and twelve wood engravings, well executed, after the original designs of a distinguished artist of the Dusseldorf school.”

No such faint praise was to be heard from the Catholic world, however, as this was the first book of its kind to combine both solid catechism and the finest artwork with an affordable price. The Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Commandments of the Church, Sin, Virtue, the Sacraments and Prayer are all brought to life with illustrations and quotes from Scripture pertaining to the precepts being taught.

We have lovingly restored these engravings and have improved the original layout of the book, grouping the subjects into clearly demarcated sections. The table of contents displays the tenets to be learned, while an index helps the reader find images in chronological order as they are found in the Bible.

Best of all, the engravings make perfect coloring pages for children."

(Note: One of our older boys unwrapped this book this evening and really enjoyed looking through it with some of his siblings. We really love that the book includes scripture passages for each topic! The book is filled with beautiful images, however some of them are definitely scary. I'll be picking and choosing which pages to share with our little ones.) 

In the past those books have included this illustrated book of saintsAround the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints, the beautiful A Catholic Child's Picture DictionaryNovena: The Power of Prayer, new children's prayer books for Mass, a craft kit to make Christmas Bookmarks, and this new Catholic Trivia game.

.: December 18th :.
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

O Adonai (O Lord) - Stained Glass Holy Night and Forest Nativity

This year, since December 18th is our LAST DAY of school before our two week Christmas break and we will finally have some breathing room in our schedule (at least after three hockey games and a birthday on Saturday!), I decided to give the family one of the two new puzzles I purchased for this year. I ended up wrapping up the Forest Nativity Shaped Puzzle (Sean picked this one out!) and will save the Stained Glass Holy Night for sometime during the Christmas season.

In the past we would emphasize the word "house" in this Antiphon, and have made our Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread Cookies on this night.  Now that we have two birthdays this week (and two birthday cakes to bake and decorate!) we usually wait until Christmas Eve, or sometime during the 12 Days of Christmas to decorated Gingerbread Houses. We have given the kids this Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter, and one year I totally stretched it and choose the Little House on the Prairie DVD. We have also roasted marshmallows over a fire, drawing from the reference to "Moses in the burning bush." Last year the children baked and decorated cookies using this cute 3-D Mini Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter made by Sweet Creations.

.: December 19th :.
O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) - "My Family

Oohhh, I am so excited about this darling personalized "My Family" set from Naturally Catholic. I considered giving this to Bud as one of his birthday gifts, in addition to the awesome Pope and Swiss Guard Set we ordered for him, but I really wanted it to be for the whole family... I decided to try and incorporate it into the O Antiphon on his birthday - O Radix Jesse.  Root of Jesse... Family Tree... My Family... It works, don't you think?  Naturally Catholic used our 4th of July family picture at the Grand Tetons for inspiration. 

Since the birthday boy has requested an "Olaf" party theme, I'll have to make sure to include some "root" vegetables in the menu once again - perhaps another Carrot Cake decorated with Olaf instead of a Barn

We also purchase our Christmas Poinsettia on this day. Other past treats and recipes have included: 12 Red Glitter Poinsettia OrnamentsMiracle of the PoinsettiaThe Miracle of the First Poinsettia, baked Poinsettia Cupcakes, Hearty Beef Stew, and Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops.

.: December 20th :.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

O Clavis David (O Key of David) - Tiny Saints Key Hooks & The Saints are Watching Over Me

Since this is initially a monastic tradition, and on this night, the monk in charge of the wine cellar would provide a special bottle of wine. We usually always serve a special drink with dinner. Sometimes I also serve a Key Lime Pie as well. One year I purchased a couple key hook rails from Target to use to hang our Rosaries (you can see them in our home in this post), another year we gave the children this Key Puzzle/Brainteaser, and last year it was tickets (the Key!) to A Christmas Carol at the theatre.

This year, in addition to a special drink with dinner, I picked out some Tiny Saints Key Hooks plus a copy of the Tiny Saints board book for our youngest.  I had actually planned to put these in their stockings but they are perfect for this O Antiphon.

.: December 21st :.
O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

O Oriens (O Dayspring) - Christmas Candles from The Cloister Shoppe

Our favorite tradition for this O Antiphon is to pile in the car after dinner with hot cocoa and drive around to look at all the Christmas lights. In the past we have also given the children this set of sun blocks, decorated our own house or tree with Christmas lights, enjoyed "O Dayspring Ice Cream," added the Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle with Gold Dish Light Set to our Christmas Tree, or decorated our Christmas Candle using a tiny wax baby Jesus I purchased years ago along with Stockmar Gold Decorating Beeswax.

Back when I ordered this year's Advent Candles, I ordered additional candles from the cloister as well. I ended up wrapping the Christmas Hearth candle for this O Antiphon and will save the Three Kings candle for Epiphany!

.: December 22nd :.
O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles) - Nativity Puzzle Flipzles

With the 1,000 piece puzzles for all the big kids (and Dad & Mom!), I ended up ordering this Nativity puzzle for the little ones. I love that you can flip the puzzle pieces over for a complete nativity scene!

(Note: The Nativity Flipzles is out of stock at the online website I purchased ours from, and Amazon doesn't seem to carry the Nativity Puzzle, just some of the other versions, but you can find it at a discount at Rainbow Resource.)

Some past ideas... One year I ordered one of the beautiful sets of Three Kings Gifts! Every Christmas the kids put together a Christmas Play for us and this set has been such a beautiful addition to their other creative props! Other years we have made Crowns, added a "King" puppet to our puppet collection, baked a Crown Cake and/or Cookies, added the King of the Golden City CD to our collection, and assembled the Three Kings Puzzle and this beautiful Stained Glass Nativity Puzzle.

.: December 23rd :.
O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

O Emmanuel (O With Us is God) - A Child is Born

The nativity set from Naturally Catholic will make another inspiring addition to our collection of nativities for children.

In the past we have given special Holy Cards or Coloring Books, including the beautiful Eucharistic Adoration: With Saints And Symbols Of The Eucharist Coloring book, this 500-Piece Stained Glass Jigsaw Puzzle, added various Children's Nativity Sets to our collection, made a Chocolate Nativity Scene, and received the Holy Family Puzzle with a lovely embroidered Mass bag from Catholic Embroidery.

.: Christmas Eve :. 

Bayberry Christmas Eve Candle from The Cloister Shoppe

Last year we introduced our children to the Polish tradition of Oplatki Wafers and are continuing that tradition in our own home again this Christmas Eve:

On Christmas Eve the Polish people celebrate a traditional vigil supper called "Wigilia" which means "to await". The children of the family look for the appearance of the first star at dusk and then to begin the meal members of the family break up pieces of Oplatki and give them to each other with a blessing. Then the actual supper begins. (Read more at Aquinas and More.)

I recommend this set from Aquinas and More. I have also ordered this set (with greeting cards to give to extended family) from the large selection of Oplatki Wafers over at Amazon.

If you are looking for any last minute gift ideas, you can find my list of Christmas Gift Ideas & Stocking Stuffers here

O Antiphon Chocolate Coins

When I made our St. Nicholas Coins for this year I saved some of the large coins from each of the candy bags (I purchased the chocolate coins from Trader Joe's), giving the children all the small coins along with three large St. Nicholas coins. I thought about saving the extras to make Christmas Coins but then, after counting and having seven each, I decided to make O Antiphon Coins once again. 

We have decorated these chocolates in the past, using the document I shared in this post, but this year I decided to use the beautiful O Antiphon images from The Jesse Tree shared by Michele Quigley.

I printed page two of Michele's document at 75% and cut out the circles for December 17th-December 23rd with my circle punch

I wanted the edges of each gold coin to show so I trimmed off a little more with the scissors.  I need to find a slightly smaller punch! 

I decorated two sets of coins and then turned the rest over to my girls to finish. They did a great job. It's so nice having helpers! :)

We will start praying the O Antiphons this evening, after the boys arrive back home from hockey, and enjoy the chocolates along with some other special treats for these Golden Nights!

You can scroll through all my past O Antiphon posts here

I hope you are all having a blessed Advent! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Santa Lucia Day

St. Lucy made by Naturally Catholic from St. Nicholas Day

Santa Lucia
by Arvid Rosen
based on traditional Swedish lyrics

Singing Santa Lucia from Lucia, Saint of Light 

Singing Santa Lucia from Lucia Morning in Sweden (we have the hardcover edition)

Night walks with heavy tread
round farm and brye, 
dark sun-forsaken earth
shadows attire. 

Once our power was restored, we baked our annual Santa Lucia Braided Bread to serve Monday morning! 

Then in our winter gloom
candlelight fills the room:
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Silent and dark the night, 
now hear descending
rustle of wings in flight, 
all darkness ending. 

Our oldest daughter received her new Christmas Eve nightgown a little early this year! The girls have been using the same Lucia gowns for years, but this year it was too small. She loves her new flannel nightgown

Then she comes, dressed in white, 
head wreathed in candles bright: 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! 

The star wands came in handy for waking up those teenage boys! ;) 

"Shadows will soon be gone
from earth's dark valley" - 
wonderful words anon
us cheer and rally. 

Day will soon dawn anew
in skies of rosy hue:
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

A Special Nameday Gift - St. Lucia 11x14" Print from Audrey Eclectic

Saint Lucy, whose beautiful name signifies light, by the light of Faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve His light in my soul, so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and sin.

Obtain for me, by your intercession with God, perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God’s greater honor and glory and the salvation of souls.

St. Lucy, Virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.

St. Lucia, pray for us!