Posts filed under "Christmas"

The Final Days of Advent: Full-Speed-Heart-Attack-Descent Into Grace and Mercy

Oh wow... the race has begun. The last days of Advent are kind of like being at the top of a world class roller coaster. We're pausing for a moment here before a full-speed-massive-heart-attack-descent begins. WaaahahahahahIIIIImmmgonnaaaadiiiiiiiiiieeeee. I love those roller coasters. The minor differences with Advent include the fact that I'm the one in charge of the seat belts, timing, and crazy scary.


Yes, that's me... that is the sound of panic setting in. Do not be alarmed. It passes and then we all hug and eat cookies together. Wheat free cookies that I am learning to bake like a boss. Mmmmmm.

I had a stressful day yesterday of not getting a whole lot done while fretting about getting a whole lot done. But today, the fun is beginning. Scary fun, but still fun. The wrapping paper is out and I've pulled out the old line: "I'm going to get XY and Z all done early this year." hahahahaha. So here we go.

If you are looking for some thoughts to direct your heart toward permanent things, I'm afraid I've failed you today, but I encourage you to visit Mary's blog, Better Than Eden, where she has been assisting the work of grace all Advent long. Read and drink it in...  and follow her... she is wise and has such a heart for Jesus...

Day 17: The One Who Hates Advent the Most
Day 18: Active Waiting

My simple and desperate prayer today...

Heavenly Father, I place the next week in your beautiful hands. Make it into what you will. I have no expectations. It's all yours. Please help us keep first things first and give primacy to Love. You are everything, Lord, and I beg you to fill our aching hearts will Your presence this Christmas. Help us to detach from the worldly chaos even while we move through it and enter into your adventure with abandon as we await the coming of your Son. Amen.
Posted on December 18, 2013 and filed under "Advent", "Christmas".

Large Family Christmas Prep: Polishing Up the Imperfect

During Advent, resist the urge to sacrifice the good for the perfect! Large family life is a perpetual exercise in "making due" and here are some of my favorite shortcut solution to Christmas preparation challenges...

One-Hour Christmas Dress Make-Over

This dress make-over is awesome because when you are finished, you will have two dresses since the second skirt is simply an overlay. We made this because my daughter needed a black outfit for her choir presentation.

The dress was a hand-me-down and I found the black satin with a grey fleur-de-lis pattern at Walmart for $1.50 a yard. I basically made a skirt to slide over the existing one and tie in the back and I love how it turned out. She looked so pretty and elegant... and still youthful even though she was all in black.

Let me qualify "One Hour" by saying that it may be rather more time if you are rushing and sew the wrong sides together the first time *ahem* or have multiple children who need you about once every thirty seconds. All things considered, I think two hours was terrific.

I do not include a tutorial here because I am lazy. Also, if you don't have a good handle on basic sewing, you should probably use a pattern instead of hacking it. If you are a decent sewer and can make an apron, you can figure this out. The waist band construction is very much like that of a half apron. I made it larger than the actual dress skirt and the ties can just be tied tighter to adjust the fit.

Simplify Gift Wrapping

Somewhere between 4 and 7 children, my Christmas Eve's started getting pretty hairy. We don't pile on the gifts but even so, they do seem to multiply. We attend Midnight Mass and by the time we put the kids to bed, find all the hidden gifts (that is a challenge in itself) wherever I have them stashed, and wrap them and clean up, I'm looking at about a 5am bedtime. What a way to ruin Christmas morning for mom!

The solution came one year as I was poking around the internet: Fabric gift bags. Lots of them in all shapes and sizes. It does require an initial investment of sewing time, but come Christmas Eve, I believe that every stitch is worth it. This is my third year and I add a few every year to account for any odd sizes and shapes. I am also starting to add tiny bags for stocking stuffers.

How do I make them? Well... if you can sew a straight line, you're good. Cut out a rectangle or square in your preferred size, hem one edge and stitch together on the three leftover sides. You can add an attached ribbon but I forego that since I don't know how exactly how a gift will fit inside until Christmas Eve. Kimberlee has a beautiful book wrapping tutorial HERE that includes a ribbon tie..

Do the kids miss tearing off wrapping? Nope. They don't seem to care at all. They are grateful, however, that mama is not so grumpy on Christmas morning.

Holiday Homeschool Scheduling
(For those of you wondering how to do it all...)

You can't do it all. So just do a two-for-one for Advent. Encourage the kids to DIY their gift-giving and make it art class, shop class, cooking class, whatever. The photo above is our "Adventures in Clay" class. Cookie made clay ornaments look like bronze with some patina. (Tutorial here) I think they turned out so pretty. 

Scheduled classes coming up this week: 

Glitter Glue 101
Easy Wheat-Free Baking 
Sewing Basics
House Cleaning Fundamentals
Stress Management Techniques

Advent Wreath

I drool over gorgeous catalog Advent wreaths every year and always forgo the purchase, put off by the price. This year, I didn't let the perfect get in the way of the good and I put together a very acceptable wreath for under $10. Not only is acceptably lovely but I really won't care if it gets wrecked by the kids nearly so much as if it had been precious and pricey

Evergreen wreath meant for hanging on a wall: $4.00
Large berry cluster torn apart: 50 cents 
Two glittery gold pine cone clusters: $1
Spool of ribbon: $2.50
Five minute assembly
Total = $8

Large Family Sibling Gift Exchange

I love it when the kids are generous with each other but it does get a little complicated for me to organize the little ones' gift-making/choosing, wrapping and hiding. So, a couple years ago we started a modified Christkindl tradition. It's kind of like a Secret Santa but far more faith-oriented. Jessica at Shower of Roses has a beautiful explanation of the practice. Check it out here. She uses Maria von Trapp's beautiful family tradition as a point of departure for her own family. Our implementation is much more rudimentary but I hope to expand on it a little more every year to develop the Christ-centered theme. For now, they offer daily prayers for the one whose name was picked and choose a gift to give on Christmas Day. As they get older, they may wish to expand their sibling gift exchanges, but for now, this is simple and still delightful.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

I hear this complaint every year and have issued it myself: I just don't feel into it this year. I don't have the spirit yet. You and I both know that Christmas comes whether we're feelin' it or not, but there are some things we can do to beat the blahs and get our twinkle back. I highly recommend, for example, that you find yourself some sacred music to drink deeply into your soul. There's a reason that the church elevates certain types of music... because there is music for the ears and music for the soul. Drink deeply, my friends, drink deeply. I recorded 17 seconds of my kids singing with their schola here for illustration and your enjoyment. I wanted to record more but, you know, babies happen...

Incidentally, these are the same kids who were my athlete stand-outs and quit club sports to put God first. Looks like they have found some new talents. :)

What are your favorite Christmas short-cuts? I personally need as many as I can get!
Posted on December 16, 2013 and filed under "Advent", "Christmas".

My Week for Growing Younger...

Do you know why having my little kids sick for two straight week during Advent has been a huge blessing? Because I get to focus on those small people almost exclusively without feeling any guilt at all. Anyone who has older children will tell you that the older ones are energy sappers. Wonderful, amazing, lovely, fantastic energy sappers... and sometimes, a mama wishes she could turn back the clock to the beginning, when they were all little. Nobody with places to go and things to do. Nobody taller than I am playing Jedi mind tricks on me while I try to cook dinner and negotiate school work or social plans with them at the same time. Nobody bickering (yes, they do that sometimes). Trying to find that balance between the bigs and the littles is actually the toughest part about large family mothering for me. Teenage drama takes hours to run its course... and in the mean time, little people just want you to color with them. Just wait. I'll be with you in a minute. Soon. Not now. Maybe later. Blah. What a dummy I can be. 

So... this week I've been pretending I'm about 10 years younger and doing some coloring and using the DVD player (aka electronic babysitter) less. I spent the last four hours sitting at the kitchen table with short people making ornaments and drawing gingerbread houses. I regret that I didn't get more done around other parts of the house, but I do not regret at all the time I spent with the tiny people.

And since small humans with sicknesses cannot go play in the snow, the wise men brought the snow to them. These fellas were waiting outside our front door for someone to notice them...

They looked a wee bit cold...

So we let them in...

It is also the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since we asked her long ago to be the patroness of our family and homeschool, we made special plans for her this year. The Chief bought this large print of her image and had it framed for us when our big kids were tiny tots. With house moves and perpetual construction, she has been covered in a corner for the past 5 years. Today, we are enthroning her image once again in the center of our home....

We are not yet finished with our kitchen but have enough done to finally be able to hang Our Lady and our crucifix.

The photo below is of our Advent wreath and Jesse Tree on our empty hutch. Since the doors are not on the hutch yet, the big stick Crash selected for our Jesse Tree ornaments threads nicely through the cabinets. All of our dishes are still in various places around the house until the final steps are completed in the kitchen.

You'll also notice that our candles are all white. Considering the fact that it has been about 10 years since I've had a proper Advent wreath and that I haven't missed even one day of the Wisemen Adventures or the Jesse Tree (unheard of), I think you just have to cut me a little slack on candle colors. Plus, the candles are blessed which is cool. And they will never be lopsided because we just keep rotating them. Next year, I will tackle the colors.

We unearthed one of our favorite Christmas devotional books, O Holy Night: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry by Johann M. Moser, yesterday. When I looked it up to link it for you, I noticed that it is no longer in print. It was originally printed by Sophia Institute Press and can be found used through various booksellers. The Kindle version is also available on Amazon.

That's really all I have time for today... because I really must get back to my coloring...

Posted on December 12, 2013 and filed under "Advent", "Christmas", "motherhood", "wise men adventures".